'Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't': The experiment explained and topical jokes on 126th birthday of the physicist


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The Independent Online

Nobel prize winning scientist Erwin Schrödinger would have been 126 today, the Austrian quantum physicist perhaps most famous for the mind experiment known as Schrödinger’s Cat.

Google has celebrated the anniversary with a doodle, featuring a cat in a box and the ghost of cat floating off to the left of the drawing.


Monday's Google Doodle

Schrödinger’s Cat Theory is a paradox used to explain the apparent contradiction between what quantum theory tells us is true at microscopic level and what we see with the naked eye.

It shows the problems of applying the rules of quantum mechanics to everyday objects.

Schrödinger's (theoretical) experiment imagines a cat is put into a steel box with a vial of hydrocyanic acid, a Geiger counter and a tiny amount of a radioactive substance.

If a single atom of the highly unstable substance decays, the Geiger counter will pick it up and a relay mechanism will trip a hammer which then shatters the small flask of hydrocyanic acid and kills the cat.

Schrödinger was attempting to disprove the the ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ of quantum mechanics, which states that a particle exists in all states at once until observed. Until the box was opened however, the observer would not be able to see whether the cat was alive or dead

This would mean that the cat would be both alive and dead at the same time, which would be impossible.

The anniversary of the physicist's birth has caused a clowder of Schrödinger cat jokes to course their way across Twitter and Facebook. In honour of our recent 'highbrow jokes' and the Nobel prize winner's notoriety, here’s our selection of the best.

  • Schrödinger's cat walks into a bar. And doesn't. (@OxfordEdScience)

  • The Google Doodle today both is and isn't about Schrödinger's cat. (@bengreenman)

  • Curiosity may have killed Schrodingers' cat (@redhatopen)

  • There ought to be a range of Schrodinger’s Cat Food. Half the price but a 50-50 chance of the tin being empty. (@PontoonDock)

  • Baa baa Schrödinger's sheep, have you any wool? Yes sir, no sir, three bags simultaneously full and empty (@tdawks)

  • It's not every day you get to make weak jokes about Schrodinger on Twitter. And at the same time, it IS.(@thatjoeden)

  • Schrödinger's cat simultaneously has 3 million, 0 and an annoying 301 views on YouTube. (@UltimateHurl)

  • Every time I hear a joke about Schrödinger's cat a little part of me dies and simultaneously doesn't die. (@GeorgeGavin1)

  • Wanted: Schrodinger's cat. Dead and alive. (@Stahnnley)

  • YOL/DO -Schrodinger's cat

Click here to see a gallery of previous Google Doodles