Schrödinger’s Cats August 6th, 2011
Schrödinger’s cat is a provocative thought experiment used to analyze the various interpretations of quantum physics. Basically, there is a cat in a box with a vial of poison which randomly may or may not have been released, and the crux of the paradox is that the cat’s fate (alive or dead) is not decided until an observer looks in the box. Before the box is opened, the cat is BOTH alive AND dead; after, once someone observes it, it is either alive OR dead. You can read more about it and it’s role in physics here.
Is this what the title character in the movie Constantine is referring to when he muses that cats are “half-in, half-out anyway”? Who knows.
I can think of 3 different personal situations in the past year have made me feel like I was considering a box with that fateful cat in it.
In the first situation, the only 2 plausible explanations I could think of are equally “impossible”. I came to realize that one of them is a bit more likely than the other, and I don’t really think about it much anymore, except when it comes up unexpectedly out of the blue.
At first blush, my second situation seemed like a rehash of the first in that I thought I was looking at another pair of impossible conclusions. However, I’ve come to realize that one of the things I thought was impossible is actually more likely just evidence of a gap in my knowledge. Similar to the principle of Occam’s Razor (given two possibilities, the simplest one is probably correct), I will concede that the least bizarre one is probably correct in this case.
(I still wonder how he did that, though… and in both these first 2 situations I’m only guessing what is in the box; I’m still resistant to actually opening it.)
Lastly, someone asked a burning question which I really wanted to know the answer to, so much so that I realized it was better if I did not know. So I have been careful not to seek the answer. A bit like Shrödinger’s cat in reverse, knowing the truth would affect my behavior, and such distraction is probably not useful to anyone. Furthermore, it’s probably really none of my business. Like the character Martin Blank says about his cat in the movie Grosse Pointe Blank, “I respect its privacy.”
A natural inclination is to want to know everything, but sometimes it’s better to accept the beauty of not knowing the fates of the cats purring away in their boxes.