Schrödinger’s Cat: A thought experiment in quantum

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment done by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in the year 1935. So before that let’s  see what is a thought experiment? In simpler words, a thought experiment is just thinking about a problem (hypothesis, theory, principle etc.) through an example and finding the consequences with logic.

Now coming to Schrödinger’s cat experiment

Schrödinger can be considered  as one of the founders of quantum mechanics.

Quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory in physics that provides a description of the physical properties of nature at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles.

When he was working with quantum mechanics in 1930s, he imagined an experiment. The experiment is like this; a cat is taken and is kept in a box. Along with the cat, an explosive that have 50 percent chance of killing the cat in 1 hour is also placed. So he thought, what might happen to the cat if it is kept in the box like this for 1 hour.

If the question were asked to us , we will say it is either dead or alive with our common sense. But Schrödinger told that the cat is equal parts alive and dead just the instance before opening the box and it is only after opening the box that we see a single definite state.

So now another question arises. Whether the cat can be half alive and half dead. It is little difficult  for us to think about that. The same problem was felt by Schrödinger also. He felt this idea very disturbing. He even turned away from physics and started studying biology at that time.

Why Schrödinger’s cat experiment is important?

This experiment is important because it ends with the idea of two states for an object. Today in quantum physics we say these two states of matter (anything that has mass and occupies space) as particle and wave nature. This concept of dual nature is very important and has made remarkable contributions to physics.

The quantum phenomena of superposition arises from this dual nature of particles. Superposition means the matter occupies different positions at same time until it is measured. In simpler words, we say matter or objects change its position all the time. Now another question arises, why big objects like chair, table, and all other things that we see don’t move with time.

This is because the things that we are talking about is applicable only for small particles like electrons. For big or heavy objects like our chair, table etc. wave nature becomes very small and we don’t see superposition property for it. For electrons, the idea of wave and particle can be extended to bonding and properties.

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