Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger was without a doubt one of the most famous physicists of all time. But, there might be more to his accomplishments than you think. Here are just a couple kick ass facts about Schrödinger and his cat.
Famous cat thought experiment demonstrates quantum superposition
Almost everyone has heard of Schrödinger’s cat – however, to many, it may simply be a metaphor or the personification of a paradox. When the hypothetical cat is in the box, it is both simultaneously alive and not, until the box is opened and the result can be observed. In other words, it could simply be read as the age-old conundrum of if a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one there, does it really make a sound? However, in reality, the thought experiment’s origin is entangled in quantum mechanics.
In quantum mechanics, certain variables at given moments can be unknown, though they can be defined overall – something Albert Einstein famously called “spooky action at a distance”. As elements of quantum mechanics are unexplainable – due to limitations of knowledge, not the system – quantum physics has inspired a wide range of media, from the Quantum of Solace James Bond film to the Quantum Leap TV show. This even extends to online casino games – when playing blackjack online, players can try their hand at Live Quantum Blackjack, which introduces unpredictable multipliers into the game.
In addition to the unknowns, particles can exist in many different quantum states at once. Though a measurement can indeed denote the quantum state in each case, in order to explain the behaviour of the particle, before and after the test the particle must be in a superposition of quantum states. In other words, it must simultaneously exist in two or more superposed states.
With this in mind, during correspondence with Einstein, Schrödinger set the scene – if a cat, poison, and a source of radioactivity connected to a Geiger counter are sealed in a box, the counter will release the poison. However, the logic of quantum mechanics implies that the cat is simultaneously alive and not for a period of time, raising the question of when the superposition ends. In this sense, Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment was devised to explain to Einstein what he saw as the issues with some interpretations of quantum mechanics, and has since become a foundational thought experiment of quantum mechanics.
Schrödinger held both Austrian and Irish citizenships
Schrödinger was born Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger on 12th August 1887 in Vienna. He gained his doctorate at the University of Vienna, which he began in 1906, under the guidance of Austrian physicist Friedrich Hasenöhrl. After serving in the Austrian forces, Schrödinger moved to Germany to become a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Berlin, before leaving for various positions in the UK, USA, Belgium, and India.
Eventually, Schrödinger was invited to assist in establishing an Institute for Advanced Studies in Dublin, being personally invited by political leader Éamon de Valera. He moved to Clontarf, Dublin in 1939, residing at Kincora Road and working in Merrion Square, where there are now plaques in tribute. It was during this time that Schrödinger began theorising that Ireland and Austria had deep links, which led to his interest in DNA. He gained Irish citizenship in 1948, staying there until his retirement.