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On June 7, 1935, Erwin Schroedinger wrote to Albert Einstein to congratulate
him on what is now known as the EPR paper, a famous problem in the
interpretation of quantum mechanics. Soon after, he published this interesting
paradox:
A cat is placed in a box, together with a radioactive atom. If the atom
decays, and the geigercounter detects an alpha particle, the hammer hits a
flask of prussic acid (HCN), killing the cat. The paradox lies in the clever
coupling of quantum and classical domains. Before the observer opens the box,
the cat's fate is tied to the wave function of the atom, which is itself in a
superposition of decayed and undecayed states. Thus, said Schroedinger, the cat
must itself be in a superposition of dead and alive states before the observer
opens the box, ``observes'' the cat, and ``collapses'' it's wave function. That
is, the cat is both alive AND dead. Of course, this supposes a cat is no more
intelligent than a rock. A better example would be a plant instead of a cat, but
the good Doctor was a product of his times. Plus he'd have had to deal with
those idiot vegans throwing paint on his bush.
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