Thursday, September 13, 2012


A few days ago my dear friend commented on my story "Curiosity". (For all those, who are keeping track on JPL's curiosity mars rover and hot mohawk guy! This post has nothing to do with JPL's awesome stuff.) She shared a cute story by her grandpa in the comment space. However, "curiosity killed the cat" mystery is not yet answered and this post is going to try to solve it! I have somehow arranged all the components of the jigsaw and here is what it looks like. Yeah! Yeah! I just figured out what this quote is about!

For all the science people; It is just one word (actually two) "Schrodinger's cat" and I wonder how I could miss that one!

For those who have no idea what Schrodinger's cat is; here is how it goes... In early 19th century Schrodinger purposed a thought experiment to illustrate that classical objects are different from quantum objects. This experiment leads to a paradox. His one of the important objectives was to point out that, if two objects follow different set of Law's they cannot be reconciled. In the case of the popular Schrodinger's cat experiment, atom is a quantum object and cat is a newtonian object.

To make our experiment more fun and easy to illustrate, let us do it in my high school lab record file style.

AIM:  To perform an experiment based on Schrodinger's cat experiment, in order to explain how curiosity killed a cat.

APPARATUS USED: A live cat, some radioactive atom, special mechanical harmer that bangs when the radioactive material is decayed, a glass bottle filled with poisonous gas, a big box/ chamber to perform the experiment.

PROCEDURE: Place the apparatus in the box in such a manner that, the harmer bangs the glass box filled with poison when the special mechanism is triggered with a radioactive decay. In this way the radioactive material's decay would release the poison in the box and would kill the cat. 

(since my teacher always insisted on making the experimental procedure, a scholarly work of "English literature" and not a step by step procedure. I am making it so. Err! Never mind!)

THEORY OR EXPLANATION: Concept of superposition in quantum mechanics; According to this concept a quantum particle can coexist in all its theoretically possible states at the same time. I.e. the atom under consideration can be decayed and not decade at any instant of time while the experiment is taking place. This infers that the poison is released and not released at the same time in the experimental chamber and finally after the chain of events involved it is clearly extrapolates that the cat is both alive and dead at the same instant of time. which is practically impossible because cat is not a quantum object. Thus this cat like rest of living non quantum objects is either alive or dead! So to find out if the cat is dead or nor or if the atom had decayed or not we must open the box and observe the result. However, in quantum mechanics the state of superposition is unobservable!  When observation is made the quantum superposition breaks down and the outcome is reveled.

The whole point of the experiment is while the box is closed the cat is considered both alive and dead! Of course that is beyond our daily observation and one of the major huddles in physics that newtonian mechanics and quantum physics does not go hand in hand. This uncertainty in quantum physics was the biggest challenge for Einstein’s latter year. This daunted him in his death bed! And was major issue between him and his contemporary physicist Heisenberg and Bohr.  That however is a completely different and waste concept so let us get back to our kitty experiment...

RESULT: The result of this thought experiment (if performed practically) has 50% chances that the cat is alive and 50% chances that it is dead till the box is closed. Once the box is opened the quantum superposition founders and the cat is either dead or alive.

SPECIAL NOTE: To break the paradox an explanation by bringing in the concept of parallel universe is quite ideal. It simply state; at the end of the experiment everything enters into the state of quantum super position, i.e. cat is alive and dead. New alternate and parallel universe are created in our experimental case there are two sets of universe in different set of dimensions exist. In one universe  the cat is alive and in other the cat is dead.

However, this curiosity to collect experimental data and record the probability of event by repeatedly performing the same experiment might kill many cats... so goes the “saying curiosity killed the cat”.
But, the mystery is still untangled, because that explains the use of the phase “curiosity killed the cat” after Schrodinger's cat experiment that took place in 1930s. Notwithstanding the fact that, this phase is used in 1500 century and may be even before that. So are you thinking what I am thinking? This could be a possible hint that someone made time machine! She/he travelled back in time and told the story about Schrodinger's cat to the people in past and created a vicious puzzle to confuse innocent and naive people in our era! Convincing? huh! I know…