A Recurring Reference – Schrodinger’s Cat

Television shows always have their recurring themes, and topics that keep getting brought up.  In the Big Bang Theory, Schrodinger’s cat is one of them.  It has been referenced multiple times, and it has even got to the point that Penny remembers what it is.  The first reference to it was when Sheldon was talking to Penny about her relationship with Leonard.  Sheldon goes on,

” In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger, in an attempt to explain the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics, he proposed an experiment where a cat is placed in a box with a sealed vial of poison that will break open at a random time. Now, since no-one knows when or if the poison has been released, until the box is opened, the cat can be thought of as both alive and dead.”

An illustration of Schrodinger’s Cat

He uses this example to explain to Penny that until they try out the relationship, there is no way to know if it will be good, bad, alive, or dead.

As it normally turns out, Sheldon is exactly right.  Schrodinger’s cat is a thought experiment that describes quantum physics and the idea of being in multiple states at once.  One thing that is left out in Sheldon’s summary of the story is that Erwin Schrodinger proposed that the cat is in the box with a vial of poison that is broken if a radiation detector detects that a piece of uranium also put in the box radioactively decays.  What this goes on to parallel in science, is how until an observation is made, a quantum particle must be thought to be in all its states at once.

An interesting thing that I found in my research was that Erwin Schrodinger made this analogy to ridicule some of his colleagues who “proclaimed that conscious observers somehow conjure the real world into existence.”

Schrodinger’s cat will go down in infamy.  It has become interlaced into pop culture (I believe partly due to The Big Bang Theory), and will be the subject of TV shows, T-shirts, and countless other displays.

For more information on Schrodinger’s Cat, please see my sources below.








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One Response to A Recurring Reference – Schrodinger’s Cat

  1. bgr5040 says:

    You do know something has been referenced a lot by the guys when Penny can remember what it is.

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