postcard-schrodingerscatImage credit: The Cat by St. George Mivart, 1881
Honourable mention in the 8th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
Schrödinger has a recurring dream. He has all these things that he must put into a steel chamber: his wife Anny’s Siamese cat, Pratyaksa, mewling piteously, the very small amount of radioactive substance, the Geiger counter, the glass ampoule of hydrocyanic acid, the relay that will break the glass. Cat, substance, Geiger, acid, relay. Relay, Geiger, cat, substance, acid. As if he were going on a picnic and packing a basket—relay, Geiger, substance, acid, and then on the top, like a watermelon that might fall off a picnic table and go splat, the cat.
Yet, always in the same place in the dream, an unexpected event transpires that causes the dream experiment to go awry: as he swings closed the small metal door, Pratyaksa calls out to Schrödinger, except the cat has his wife Anny’s voice. She commands him in a vexed tone to choose between her, his wife, and Helen, his lover.
This is where the dream persistently deviates and one of two outcomes is possible.
Copenhagen Interpretation. At a sunny breakfast table in Vienna, somewhere in the middle of his career, seated between his wife Anny and his mistress Helen, Schrödinger does the mental equivalent of opening the box and making the observation. A conversation has been going on in which Anny, his wife, declares the marmalade, which his lover, Helen, bought the previous morning from the Strand Market, to be “rather glutinous.” Does he not think so? Slowly removing his hand from the pot of marmalade, he notices the glinting yellow strands held aloft in the golden mixture. Both Helen and Anny stare at him from across the table, waiting. The wave function collapses. His knife, resting carelessly on the tablecloth, shines apprehensively. The system no longer exists in a superposition of two states.
Many Worlds Interpretation. It is evening and they have been out. Schrödinger holds the door of the car open, and Anny, with her fur coat draped across her arm like a collapsed animal, carries her shoes in her free hand. Both alive and dead states seem to exist decoherently. Thus, their assemblage in the dark at the front of the brownstone—Helen stepping from foot to foot because she has to pee and dabbing at her eyes with her gloves, like she could be crying, and Anny leaning heavily on his arm as to steady herself and wobbling into the light so Schrödinger can’t see where to put the key—is consistent with the view that the observer has become entangled. Moreover, the decoherence of the situation ensures that the different outcomes have no interaction with one another. Schrödinger manages the door finally and the two women, thankfully, head to their respective rooms.
In the dream experiment, when Schrödinger opens the chamber, he is no longer interested in whether the cat is alive or dead. Pratyaksa always manages to escape the box, by a means that Schrödinger cannot comprehend in his waking mind, but makes perfect sense when he is sleeping.