Google has decided to recognize the notorious Erwin Schrödinger, a physicist renowned for his brain-twisting thought experiment, by designing a themed Google Doodle. Perhaps many Redditors would be interested to know, it involves… cats.
Schrödinger was born in Austria, and was raised in a very religious household. Despite this, he described himself as an atheist. Nonetheless, he learned a great deal about various Eastern religions and had a keen interest in philosophy, which is believed to have influenced his later works to a certain extent.
He began ruminating about the experiment in 1935 and was partly inspired by his communications with Albert Einstein. Einstein discussed the peculiarity of quantum entanglement, a tangible phenomenon which occurs when two particles interact and subsequently separate. Einstein concluded that the state of the systems for each of the interacting particles collapsed when one of the systems was quantified, resulting in a definite state.
These insightful conversations lead Erwin Schrödinger to form a similar supposition, but on a grander scale. Schrödinger’s thought experiment hypothesized the fate of a cat when placed into a sealed, opaque box. As part of this hypothetical situation, a Geiger counter was affixed to the box, which contains radioactive material. When this radioactive material decayed, the Geiger counter detected the events and smashed a vial of noxious gas, thereby killing the cat.
Unable to visually recognize whether the cat was alive or dead, and because radioactive decay is random, Erwin Schrödinger posited the animal to be both alive and dead up until the moment the box is opened. Corresponding with Einstein’s explanation, once the box is opened the cat changes from being both dead and alive to a single state (dead or alive.) This thought experiment is essentially the meaning behind Google’s latest Doodle.
This paradoxical thought experiment was Schrödinger’s attempt to disprove the Copenhagen Interpretation, which suggested the cat existed in a single state; either alive or dead. This is all neatly wrapped up in the following video:
The Austrian-born physicist also contributed toward the fields of electrodynamics, thermodynamics, relativity and cosmology. During his early years, he performed numerous experiments in atmospheric electricity and radioactivity as well as Brownian motion, a phenomenon that shows the random path particles take when suspended in a liquid or gas. He then went on to establish the relationship between the orbit of electrons and the geometric properties of a particular atom.
Schrödinger’s most seminal work revolved around his experiments in wave mechanics, developing the wave equation that is depicted on the Google Doodle. For this work, he shared the Nobel Prize with a fellow physicist, Paul Dirac.
To celebrate this occasion, Google has produced a Doodle graphic, displaying his devised quantum mechanics equation, and also portraying Schrödinger’s cat existing in both states.
Essentially, Google is helping to remind us all of the importance of this scientific giant’s great works, which doesn’t just simply extend to his feline-based thought experiments; although dead, his work has certainly not been forgotten. Erwin Schrödinger’s work continues to ask some demanding scientific and philosophical questions, even after all this time.
By: James Fenner