On this day in 1935, Erwin Schrödinger published his famous question. Is the cat alive or dead, and will we ever know?
In quantum mechanics, Schrödinger's cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, of quantum superposition. In the thought experiment, a hypothetical cat may be considered simultaneously both alive and dead, while it is unobserved in a closed box, as a result of its fate being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur. This thought experiment was devised by physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935 in a discussion with Albert Einstein to illustrate what Schrödinger saw as the problems of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.
In Schrödinger's original formulation, a cat, a flask of poison, and a radioactive source are placed in a sealed box. If an internal radiation monitor (e.g. a Geiger counter) detects radioactivity (i.e. a single atom decaying), the flask is shattered, releasing the poison, which kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation implies that, after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead. This poses the question of when exactly quantum superposition ends and reality resolves into one possibility or the other.
Although originally a critique on the Copenhagen interpretation, Schrödinger's seemingly paradoxical thought experiment became part of the foundation of quantum mechanics. The scenario is often featured in theoretical discussions of the interpretations of quantum mechanics, particularly in situations involving the measurement problem. As a result, Schrödinger's cat has had enduring appeal in popular culture. The experiment is not intended to be actually performed on a cat, but rather as an easily understandable illustration of the behavior of atoms. Experiments at the atomic scale have been carried out, showing that very small objects may exist as superpositions; but superimposing an object as large as a cat would pose considerable technical difficulties.
Maybe you understand quantum physics, but I don’t. Nonetheless, it’s real because we can use it to make things like semiconductors which give us video games.
Speaking of which, the last video game I was any good at was released on this day in 1972.
Pong is a table tennis–themed twitch arcade sports video game, featuring simple two-dimensional graphics, manufactured by Atari and originally released in 1972. It was one of the earliest arcade video games; it was created by Allan Alcorn as a training exercise assigned to him by Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, but Bushnell and Atari co-founder Ted Dabney were surprised by the quality of Alcorn's work and decided to manufacture the game. Bushnell based the game's concept on an electronic ping-pong game included in the Magnavox Odyssey, the first home video game console. In response, Magnavox later sued Atari for patent infringement.
Pong was the first commercially successful video game, and it helped to establish the video game industry along with the Magnavox Odyssey. Soon after its release, several companies began producing games that closely mimicked its gameplay. Eventually, Atari's competitors released new types of video games that deviated from Pong's original format to varying degrees, and this, in turn, led Atari to encourage its staff to move beyond Pong and produce more innovative games themselves.
Somewhere there’s a universe where I understand quantum physics and am a gamer, but not this one.
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