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The science behind Schrödinger's cat paradox

The science behind Schrödinger's cat paradox

Schrödinger's cat It is one of the most popular scientific concepts in popular culture and has been discussed in numerous series and films The most famous quote is from Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory. However, not all of these productions present the real content that the concept is trying to explain. Not surprisingly, the topic is part of complex and chaotic quantum physics.

In the hypothesis, A virtual cat is placed in a sealed box for a certain period of time, along with a vial of poison, radioactive material, and a Geiger counter for radiation. The concept works as a question: What would happen to a cat in a locked box without any human being making scientific measurements? Is he alive or dead?

First, it is important to emphasize that the idea is just a thought experiment. In other words, scientists don't need to put a real cat next to poison and radioactive materials. Some scholars have supported the concept that the cat is in a state of superposition of being both alive and dead at the same time; Only when the box is opened will investigators find out whether he is alive or dead.

Although it is the most popular solution to most people, the entire scientific community does not accept this assumption. For example, Albert Einstein, creator of the Schrödinger thought experiment, rejected the possibility that a cat could be both alive and dead at the same time.

Scientists have been able to put particles such as ions and photons into superimposed states. French physicist Serge Harroche and American physicist David Wineland won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work in designing experiments to create such “Schrödinger's cat states, in which observable particles are in two different states simultaneously,” as described in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

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What is Schrödinger's cat paradox?

Thought experiment Schrödinger's cat was created by Austrian theoretical physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 and was first mentioned in the article “The Current State of Quantum Mechanics.” The experiment asks what would happen to a shot in a completely sealed box containing a small piece of uranium, a Geiger counter, and a sealed vial of cyanide.

Although Schrödinger's Cat is the Austrian physicist's most famous work, he was responsible for numerous studies on quantum mechanics, and even created an equation about the particle's wave function – which also bears his name. However, he was not the one who commented on the idea of ​​placing an animal in a quantum superposition that is both alive and dead at the same time.

In fact, one of the main proponents of the superposition of the living and the dead was the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who believed that particles had no specific properties until a scientist measured the results.

The Schrödinger's cat paradox suggests that the cat is both dead and alive at the same time, but that's not exactly what physicist Erwin Schrödinger wanted to explain.source: Wikimedia Commons

In superposition, particles are in two states at the same time; For example, they could be in different locations. Thus, only when particles are observed can researchers say that they are indeed present in multiple locations.

The real goal of Schrödinger's thought experiment was not to understand whether the cat was alive or dead inside the box. The physicist's idea was to clarify and demonstrate the limits of quantum mechanics The paradox is that atoms can be in two quantum states at the same time, but a cat made up of countless atoms cannot be in different states.

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What is the relationship between quantum mechanics and Schrödinger's cat?

In the locked box, the uranium will start emitting radiation, which will activate the Geiger counter, and since there is a hammer stuck under the tool, it will fall and break the cyanide vial. In the end, the cat will be killed with poison. Despite Bohr's idea, Einstein and Schrödinger himself did not believe that a cat could be in both states at the same time. After all, we know that a cat can only be dead or alive.

In fact, human ethics would never allow a cat to be used in an experiment in which the animal would likely die. Fortunately, scientists have used other methods to try to understand Schrödinger's theory.

In 1996, a group of scientists conducted real experiments using a positively charged ion instead of a cat. In 2010, another team of researchers was able to reproduce a test using a resonator that oscillates and does not oscillate at the same time. Even with the latest studies, science still has a lot to learn from Schrödinger's cat.

Did you like the content? Read more curiosities about quantum physics here at TecMundo. If you like, take the opportunity to understand the hybrid theory that unifies Einstein's gravity and quantum mechanics.