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In 1935 Erwin Schrodinger published an article in which he presented an extraordinary paradox. His treatment of this paradox was remarkably brief – it occupies no more than a single short paragraph of a dense, sixteenpage paper. But so striking are its consequences, that it has continued to concern and fascinate physicists to this day.

Schrodinger expressed his paradox in terms of a thought experiment, and he explicitly described it as a “quite ridiculous” one. He certainly did not advocate performing the experiment. It does not need to be performed; its function, rather, is to fix our thoughts on a situation crafted so as to dramatize most clearly the paradoxical nature of quantum theory. Since then, it has come to be known as “Schrodinger’s cat paradox.”

Here is a translation of that remarkable paragraph:

One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that pergaps in the course of one hour on of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens the Geiger counter tube discharges and though a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The wave function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

In modern language we would say that after the hour has passed, the state of the cat is a superposition of two terms, one representing a living cat, and the other a dead one. The question is: What does the superposition mean? Should we say that it describes a cat that in some peculiar sense is both alive and dead at the same time? What could this possibly mean?

For after the hour has passed, let us now step forward, open the box, and look at the cat. When we do so, all of these questions drop away, for what we see will not correspond to any of these bizarre possibilities. Rather we will see something entirely prosaic – nothing more than a cat; maybe dead, maybe living.

Thus one’s first thought is that the paradox is that the superposition of wave function does not represent what we see when we observe the cat. Indeed, it does not represent anything we have ever seen. After nearly three-quarters of a century of quantum mechanics, we have gotten used to the fact that the microworld exhibits quantum properties. The real cat paradox is that the macroscopic world of our daily experience does not. We never observe in it anything corresponding to interference between dead and living cats. [1, p. 185-187]

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

1) George Greenstein, Arthur G. Zajonc, The quantum challenge: modern research on the foundations of quantum mechanics, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. – 2nd ed. 2006

Reference: http://books.google.by/books?id=5t0tm0FB1CsC&printsec=frontcover&hl=ru#v=onepage&q&f=false

Schrodinger expressed his paradox in terms of a thought experiment, and he explicitly described it as a “quite ridiculous” one. He certainly did not advocate performing the experiment. It does not need to be performed; its function, rather, is to fix our thoughts on a situation crafted so as to dramatize most clearly the paradoxical nature of quantum theory. Since then, it has come to be known as “Schrodinger’s cat paradox.”

Here is a translation of that remarkable paragraph:

One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that pergaps in the course of one hour on of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens the Geiger counter tube discharges and though a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The wave function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

In modern language we would say that after the hour has passed, the state of the cat is a superposition of two terms, one representing a living cat, and the other a dead one. The question is: What does the superposition mean? Should we say that it describes a cat that in some peculiar sense is both alive and dead at the same time? What could this possibly mean?

For after the hour has passed, let us now step forward, open the box, and look at the cat. When we do so, all of these questions drop away, for what we see will not correspond to any of these bizarre possibilities. Rather we will see something entirely prosaic – nothing more than a cat; maybe dead, maybe living.

Thus one’s first thought is that the paradox is that the superposition of wave function does not represent what we see when we observe the cat. Indeed, it does not represent anything we have ever seen. After nearly three-quarters of a century of quantum mechanics, we have gotten used to the fact that the microworld exhibits quantum properties. The real cat paradox is that the macroscopic world of our daily experience does not. We never observe in it anything corresponding to interference between dead and living cats. [1, p. 185-187]

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

1) George Greenstein, Arthur G. Zajonc, The quantum challenge: modern research on the foundations of quantum mechanics, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Inc. – 2nd ed. 2006

Reference: http://books.google.by/books?id=5t0tm0FB1CsC&printsec=frontcover&hl=ru#v=onepage&q&f=false

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