Either Way The Cat Is Pissed

, , , , , | Friendly | December 4, 2017

(I spend a weekend with a friend who is in grad school studying physics. He explains to me the idea of Schrodinger’s Cat and how it relates to what’s called the Double-Slit Experiment. While I find later that what he told me about the cat is actually a common misunderstanding of the illustration — in that he says the cat is literally dead or alive until it’s observed as either; not actually the case — my mind is nonetheless blown by what he explains to me. I make it home, and a couple weeks later I go on a camping trip with a bunch of guys. We sit around the fire that night, bringing up interesting things to discuss, and I remember Schrodinger’s Cat. Humorous ignorance ensues.)

Me: “So, if you were to put a cat in a box, and… Oh, gosh, how did it go? You put poison in the box and the cat maybe eats it or doesn’t? Anyway, there’s somehow a 50% chance the cat dies, but it’s in the box, and you can’t see if it happened or not. The cat is both alive and dead at the same time until you check the box.”

Friend #1: “What? That’s bull-s***.”

Me: “No, it’s physically proven! It has to do with this experiment with… electrons or something going through slits, and how they appear on a screen.”

Friend #1: “You can’t see electrons!”

Me: “No, I know, but it’s projecting onto the screen somehow.”

Friend #2: “So, if you kill a cat and put it in a box, then—”

Me: “—no, no, no. The cat’s alive when you put it in the box with the poison—”

Friend #3: “How are you supposed to keep the cat from eating the poison?”

Me: “You aren’t. There’s a 50% chance that it will.”

Friend #3: “I don’t see how that’s possible. You can’t control a cat like that.”

Me: “It’s something I’m sure I’m forgetting. I know the 50% chance of killing the cat is part of it. I think you have to assume that.”

Friend #4: “Okay, I’ve not been paying attention, but now I’m intrigued. Why does [My Name] want to poison cats?”

Me: “I’m not advocating poisoning cats!”

Friend #1: “No, it’s not about poisoning cats. I guess you shoot electrons through a poison cat and—”

Friend #2: “—see, I thought he said if you can make it a 50% chance to poison a cat but don’t watch, you get two cats, but one is dead.”

Me: “Are you guys actually being serious right now?”

(They were.)

Friend #1: “Don’t get mad at us. You’re the one talking about poisoning cats with electrons.”

(I gave up and then someone brought up football or action movies or cage fighting and we talked about that for hours, instead.)

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