Google Doodle Celebrates Physicist Erwin Schrödinger … and Cats!

The Austrian physicist was born 126 years ago today

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Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the life of Austrian physicist and Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger (August 12, 1887 — January 4, 1961), a founder of quantum physics who used cats to explain things long before Internet cat videos became cool.

(LIST: A History of Google Doodles)

erwin

Science & Society Picture / Getty Images

AUSTRIA – AUGUST 28: Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961) founded wave mechanics, creating Schrodinger’s equation.

The cats in the Google Doodle illustrate his famous thought experiment known as “Schrödinger’s Cat,” proposed to help explain quantum mechanics. As TIME sums up the theory:

Put a cat in a box, he proposed, and rig up a Rube Goldberg contraption involving a hammer, a vial of poison and a quantum triggering device. If an electron is in one position, the hammer will remain safely cocked. But if the electron moves into the opposite location, the hammer will drop, smashing the vial and killing the cat.

The laws of quantum mechanics hold that as long as the electron remains undisturbed, it hangs in limbo, occupying both its possible states. The cat, by extension, is both dead and alive.

This animated cat video also explains everything you need to know in under two minutes:

A native of Vienna, Austria, who worked for a brief time alongside Albert Einstein, Schrödinger also developed what is called Schrödinger’s wave equation — an important discovery in the field of wave mechanics for which he shared the 1933 Nobel Prize for Physics with British physicist P.A.M. Dirac. In a 1933 article about the prizewinners, TIME wrote that Schrödinger expanded the field of subatomic study:

“He replaced the classical equations for electron motion with new differential equations similar to those which describe the wave motion which constitutes light and sound. Thus the atom is conceived as a positive nucleus wrapped in a throbbing field of negative electricity.”

Schrödinger also penned What Is Life? (first published in 1944), which “argued that one of life’s essential features is the storage and transmission of information–that is, a genetic code that passes from parent to child,” TIME wrote in 2003.

When the physicist was not coming up with ground-breaking science, he liked to “ski, skate, swim, climb mountains,” TIME reported. He died from tuberculosis in 1961.

Google Doodles have been paying tribute to great scientists and scientific causes recently, including Maria Mitchell, the first professional astronomer in the U.S. and the biophysicist Rosalind Franklin, whose x-rays helped reveal DNA’s double-helix structure.

MORE: Google Doodle Honors Maria Mitchell, First Professional Woman Astronomer in the U.S.

MORE: Google Doodle Celebrates Rosalind Franklin

25 comments
ReidBarnes
ReidBarnes

Quantum theory assumes Einstein's general theory of relativity, and he challenged quantum theory saying, God does not play dice. Yet if Einstein was right about general relativity, subsequent scientific developments apparently show his challenges to quantum theory are wrong—IF he was right about general relativity.  But what if Einstein was wrong about general relativity, because it is flawed by self-contradicting non-Euclidean geometry, and right about dice? Check out this Facebook Note:  https://www.facebook.com/notes/reid-barnes/not-the-god-particle-the-god-field-if-you-must-call-it-that/519767374742508

TIHLI
TIHLI

The answer to the quantum physics question is a spiritual solution solved by the Jewish Christ. The assumption is nature doesn't collapse or something isn't proven until it's observed but who is to say that the observation is what it appears or that it's irreversible or who's to say seeing is believing. There you have it "believing". So in other words nature doesn't collapse (proven) until it's believed. Jesus said all things are possible to "them" that believe.(Mark 9:23) I believe Dr. Schrodinger scientifically addresses the gap between science and deity. Are we being watched as well as the cat which will cause nature to collapse on "our" reality or cause our reality to be proven.  The question is. Is there a GOD and Jesus addresses that it is our belief that determines our own reality in GOD's existence and it's believing that brings GOD's existence to a reality in our lives; Therefore GOD exist and that reality is both existent and non existent to the potential observer so until it is observed  through our belief, the cat is both dead and alive and GOD is both existent and non existent to the individual.

russneal73
russneal73

We use the assumption of mechanistic determinism to understand macroscopic things like cats and boxes.  We only resort to probabilistic approaches when there are "hidden variables" like the cat's status in the unobservable interior of the box.  Quantum theory on the other hand, holds that the micro world of electrons and photons actually is probabilistic and not mechanistically determined.  It is not that the electron has a specific location and momentum that we just can't measure.  It's that the electron only actually has a probability distribution of position and momentum.  Thus, in order to understand our world scientifically, we must hold two contradictory philosophical views, mechanistic determinism and probability, in our heads simultaneously.  Reconciling the two seems impossible.  IMHO, it represents a fundamental limit on human knowledge.

xsoan176
xsoan176

He kinda...blew my mind up....

BetsyWhite
BetsyWhite

This article is a distortion. The thought experiment of Schrödinger was not used to "explain quantum mechanics". He used it to debunk quantum mechanics by showing how absurd it was that the cat in the box was both alive and dead at the same time.

larrylutton
larrylutton

The cat knows if its alive or dead.Just because you don't observe something,just means you are ignorant (notice I didn't say stupid).

SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

Electrons are moved by external forces, they're not "random." 

ChristineKalinowski
ChristineKalinowski

Well the person putting the unstable gun powder in the box....don't they also have a 50/50 chance of blowing up before they could get out of the bunker? Even if they were lowering it in since its unstable it could blow up in their face. They would die. I think they have more of a chance of blowing up then the cat does.


Maybe their clock is off they open the bunker 10 seconds to earlier...resulting in them dying.


SarahGoodwich
SarahGoodwich

@ChristineKalinowski 

Or a rabbit could say "NYAAAAH what's up doc?" and light the fuse. 

Probability is just another word for CERTAINTY, and 50% likely just means 50% certain, i.e. it doesn't affect whether something's going to happen, but how likely you'll be right in PREDICTING it.

charginchuck42
charginchuck42

People love to talk about Schrodingers cat, but they always seem to leave out the fact that the theory was actually created as a criticism of popular theories about quantum mechanics of the time. The notion that the cat could be both alive and dead at the same time is obviously impossible, a paradox, which was actually the whole point. Schrodinger considered this way of thinking to be a contradiction of common sense, so he proposed a theory which he thought couldn't possibly be taken seriously. I guess the concept of Poe's Law just didn't exist back in those days.

DRDIZZLE
DRDIZZLE

Funny, Sheldon used Schroedinger's cat as an example on last nights rerun of Big Bang Theory. Would the coincidence be 1/365 or 1/365 divided by the number of episodes of Big Bang Theory in syndication?

SinaRoughani
SinaRoughani

@DRDIZZLE No, it is possible that the channel executives might be clever and did it on purpose so multiply the chances by 3Lambda

eagle11772
eagle11772

I'm a "cat person" and are for 4 cats whom were all strays I adopted.  (Schroedinger was obviously a cat-hater". :(  )  The FLAW I have always seen in Schroedinger's famous thought experiment involving the cat, is it PRESUPPOSES that there is no outside observer.  But there IS !  GOD, who is defined as "The Creator Of All Things" sees the cat die (and return to Him).

hereNT
hereNT

@eagle11772 @eagle11772 huh, I thought part of it was that the instant you actually observe it, the cat becomes alive or dead. Kind of like an electron - it's either a wave or a particle, depending on when you observe it. The act of looking makes it one or the other. 


Kind of like how if you believe in "GOD" then it exists, but if you don't it doesn't. Though, really, there it's just a delusion that makes people believe it exists...

eagle11772
eagle11772

@hereNT @eagle11772  But since God is omniscient, He sees all things all the time.  Therefore, the cat is either dead or alive, but never both, because God is always watching.  (I'm a "cat person" and a church-going Lutheran).