MAY 30, 2017 6:10 AM PDT

Dead or Alive? Schrödinger's Cat Explained


While many fields in science depend on hard facts and numbers, there are some parts of science where it's not quite so black and white. Schrödinger's cat is one such part of physics. Quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger postulated that some forms of matter can exist in more than one state at the same time. He used the example of a cat, in a closed box with radioactive material, enough to be lethal. Until the box is opened and the cat is examined, no one knows if it's alive or dead. So, theoretically, the cat is both alive and dead, existing in more than one state of matter at the same time. It's called a "thought experiment" and it challenges students to understand scientific theory and the fact that until something is proven, no theory can be said to be right or wrong, and allegorically, the cat cannot be assumed dead or alive.

There are essentially two fields of physics. Classic physics which explains most physical laws like the how fast an object falls or how strong the pull of gravity is. Then there is quantum physics which seeks to explain those phenomena that classic physics cannot fully prove. Quantum physicists deal in theory, since it's not always possible to see what goes on at the particle level of atoms in matter. Often quantum physicists have to look at the mechanics of how something works to theorize what state it might be in. Whether classic or quantum, physicists have been been debating the life or death of this famous cat for centuries.
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
DEC 15, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Over-the-air Charging - How Close Are We to Realize Tesla's Vision?
DEC 15, 2020
Over-the-air Charging - How Close Are We to Realize Tesla's Vision?
When inventor and visionary Nikola Tesla erected his Wardenclyffe Tower, a 186-feet tall and 68-feet wide monstrous towe ...
FEB 19, 2021
Plants & Animals
Group of Migrating Gray Whales Makes a Puget Sound Pitstop
FEB 19, 2021
Group of Migrating Gray Whales Makes a Puget Sound Pitstop
Washington’s Puget Sound is famously home to resident and transient orca pods. However, during their yearly migrat ...
MAR 09, 2021
Plants & Animals
Sea Slug Shows Extreme Case of Regeneration
MAR 09, 2021
Sea Slug Shows Extreme Case of Regeneration
Some of the most interesting—and possibly strangest—scientific discoveries happen by accident. According to ...
APR 07, 2021
Plants & Animals
Scientists Discover a Crab-Dissolving Parasite
APR 07, 2021
Scientists Discover a Crab-Dissolving Parasite
Parasites abound throughout the natural world. While not all of them cause the host's death, this newly discovered p ...
MAY 29, 2021
Space & Astronomy
First Matter in the Universe Flowed Like Tap Water
MAY 29, 2021
First Matter in the Universe Flowed Like Tap Water
In two separate studies, researchers led by those at the University of Copenhagen and Queen Mary University of London fo ...
JUN 04, 2021
Plants & Animals
What Elephant Trunks Teach Science about Suction
JUN 04, 2021
What Elephant Trunks Teach Science about Suction
How an elephant picks up a tortilla chip could inspire next-generation suction technology.
Loading Comments...