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Schrödinger v. Cat

Rubber, wood, computer with custom software, video projector, LCD display
2012
Rob Gonsalves: Schrödinger v. Cat

Schrödinger v. Cat is an interactive video installation that allows visitors to run experiments to test the famous quantum physics paradox devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger. In 1935, Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment to illustrate what he saw as a problem with the current theory of quantum mechanics of his time, the Copenhagen interpretation, as applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event.

To run the experiment, press the large Setup button on the control panel. This starts an animated sequence that shows the apparatus being prepared for the experiment. Next, use the buttons and knob to indicate the subject of the experiment (either a cat or Schrödinger himself) and the quantum mechanics model (the Copenhagen interpretation, the many worlds interpretation, or the Hanna-Barbera interpretation).

Pressing the Start button runs the experiment for 60 seconds. During the run you can observe the interaction of the subject with the apparatus. Note that you (and other viewers in the gallery) are unobtrusively omniscient; you do not change the quantum state by observing the experiment. After the run, the cover of the chamber is opened to reveal the experiment to the giant eyeball overhead. This act of this "observation" affects the outcome of the experiment, to reveal if the physicist or cat is alive or dead.Watch on YouTube

Copenhagen Interpretation

In the Copenhagen interpretation, a system stops being a superposition of states and becomes either one or the other when an observation takes place. [Niels Bohr - The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, 1930]

Many-Worlds Interpretation

In the many-worlds interpretation, both alive and dead states of the cat persist after the box is opened, but are decoherent from each other. In other words, when the box is opened, the observer and the already-dead cat split into an observer looking at a box with a dead cat, and an observer looking at a box with a live cat. [Hugh Everett Theory of the Universal Wavefunction, Thesis, Princeton University, (1956, 1973), pp 1-140]

Hanna-Barbera Interpretation

The Hanna-Barbera interpretation of quantum mechanics generally follows the accepted laws of physics — unless it is funnier otherwise. For example, any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent. Cats heal fast and/or have an infinite number of lives. [ACME Journal of Cartoon Physics, 10/94; V.18 #7 p.12, 1980]

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