Number 45
Date Jan. 4th 2006
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Schrodinger is the 45th xkcd comic.


The comic refers to "Schrödingers cat", a thought experiment by phycisist Erwin Schrödinger that presents a cat trapped in a cage that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier (lethal) random event. The thought experiment can be regarded as a criticism to what is called the "Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics". This interpretation states, essentialy, that every random event (for instance the escape of a subatomic particle) creates two "systems" or "realities": one where the particle did split, and one where it didn't. Furthermore, it states that one of these realities will cease to exist (thus making the other reality the "definite state") not earlier than at the moment when one of both systems is measured (i.e. "observed"). Applied tot he situation of the cat in the cage, this would mean that the cat is both alive and dead at the same time until the moment that someone opens the cage for inspection. Thus, the thought experiment can be regarded as a classic Reductio ad absurdum.

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