Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Schrödinge​r's Dog

My friend Schrödinger is a strange fellow.

He has taken a small dog he recently got at the pound and placed it in a steel box along with a geiger counter and a very, very small bit of radioactive material, so small that in the course of an hour or a day or a week, only one of the atoms might decay, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none will decay.

If an atom decays, then the geiger counter discharges and, through an electronic relay, it releases a small hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrogen cyanide which poisons the dog and kills it dead.

Schrödinger asks me if I think the dog is now alive or dead, but since I cannot see in, how am I to know? I am not even sure if that is the right question.

The right question, I think, is what did that woman mean when she dropped her dog off at the pound and said "her circumstances had changed." 

When she dropped the dog off at the pound, did she think the dog was alive or dead?

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