Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Schrödinger's Cat

I learned about Schrödinger's cat before I learned about photosynthesis, multiplication, the American Revolution and the Beatles.

My dad, originally a physical chemist, felt that this was a worthy story to teach a small child about. Like Jesus and his parables, my dad's parable was Schrödinger's cat. I'm not sure how old I was when I first heard about the poor kitty, but at this stage of my life, I cannot recall ever not knowing about Schrödinger's cat and the basic idea of quantum mechanics that it demonstrated.

As a result, this cat is very dear to me. Maybe my dad felt that I was missing out on having a pet, so I would have a mental pet that was both dead and alive. Maybe he felt that he had to teach me about something scientific to counteract my mother's focus on the humanities. Maybe he just thought Schrödinger's cat was so incredibly cool that I had to know all about it. Maybe he wanted to make me aware of the fine line between science fiction and science and turn me into a science fiction buff. If the latter was his goal, he certainly succeeded. I'll have to ask him sometime.

Last night while trying to fall asleep, it suddenly occurred to me how strange it was that Schrödinger's cat was a children's story to me. It also occurred to me that there were probably many other things that I learned about as a small child that were rather strange. But those are stories for another day.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The best treatmnent of this is at "the Straight Dope," where it is put into a Suess-like poem.

9:39 PM  

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