Google Doodle honours quantum physicist Erwin Schrödinger (and his theoretical cat)
Nobel prize-winning Austrian quantum physicist perhaps most famous for the mind experiment known as Schrödinger’s Cat
Monday 12 August 2013
Google has celebrated the 126th birth anniversary of Erwin Schrödinger, the Nobel prize-winning Austrian quantum physicist, perhaps most famous for the mind experiment known as Schrödinger’s Cat.
Schrödinger won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933 for the introduction of Schrödinger's wave, a mathematical equation of wave mechanics that is still the most widely used piece of Mathematics in modern quantum theory.
Erwin Schrodinger was born in Vienna on the 12th August 1887 to Rudolf Schrodinger and Georgine Emilia Brenda.
He was initially tutored at home then studied theoretical physics at the University of Vienna under Franz S. Exner and Friedrich Hasenohrl. By 1911, he was already assisting Exner.
He later undertook military service, before returning to academia.
In 1925, while he was professor of physics at the University of Zurich, Schrödinger formulated a wave-equation that accurately gave the energy levels of atoms.
The theory won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1933 and was possibly his greatest contribution to the field.
Schrödinger’s other work was wide ranging including the physics of dielectrics, statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, colour theory, electrodynamics, general relativity, and cosmology.
In the years after his Nobel Prize win Schrödinger was critical of contemporary interpretations of quantum mechanics.
He used the thought experiment, known as Schrödinger's cat, to illustrate the problems surrounding the application of the "Copenhagen interpretation" of quantum mechanics to everyday objects.
The thought experiment presented a cat that could be alive or dead, based on an earlier random event.
The experiment, which is sometimes described as a paradox, attempts to demonstrate the apparent conflict involved in applying the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics to everyday objects. Schrödinger explained his experiment thus: "A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small, that perhaps in the course of the hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid.
If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The psi-function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts."
"It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation.
That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself, it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."
Erwin Schrödinger died in Vienna in January 1961 from the tuberculosis.
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