9 Science Facts To Make You Sound Clever At Parties

1. "Of Course, Schrödinger's Cat Was Meant As A Joke"


One of the best ways of making yourself look clever is by making somebody else look stupid. You can easily do this with Schrödinger's Cat, a famous thought experiment that often gets brought up by smug people at parties.

If somebody starts a conversation about it, there's a very real chance that people will think that they're cleverer than you and we can't have that. They'll probably talk about how the cat is both alive and dead at the same time, they might even start chucking words around such as "superposition" and "quantum probability", then they'll sit back safe in the knowledge that they've just blown all of your minds.

This is the point when you should drop in with "Yes, but it's not actually real, Schrödinger was just joking" and watch their face fall.

The truth about this famous thought experiment is that Schrödinger was actually just being a snarky git. He came up with the whole idea of a dead/alive cat in a box to highlight the absurdity of quantum mechanics.

The idea behind it is that, at a quantum level, the behaviour of matter can only be described using probability, meaning that it is theoretically possibly for an atom to be simultaneously at every point in the universe, and it cannot be known exactly what state it is in until it is observed, this is called "superposition" (it's more complicated than that, but go with it. For further reading, take a look at Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle).

Schrödinger was simply trying to demonstrate that you cannot apply the same rules that govern the quantum world, to classical physics, he wasn't actually suggesting that you should put cats in boxes. He used the example of the dead/alive cat because even an idiot would realise that a cat can't be both alive and dead at the same time.

Of course the cat isn't simultaneously alive and dead. It's either definitely dead, or alive and pissed off at you for shutting it in a box.

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