Gracie Is Schrödinger’s Cat


2015-12-10 – We have two cats. One is named Poppy. One is named Gracie. Gracie has hyperactive thyroid—or is it hypoactive? I can never get that straight. Whatever you call it, the disease causes her heart to race and she lost a lot of weight.

For a cat. If she would lose the amount of weight that I need to lose, she’d weigh less than nothing.

We’ve been giving her medicine for several months, but she secretly spits it out. We were finding semi-melted pills in corners all over the house.

Another symptom that Gracie has been exhibiting is a kind of hyper hostility to our dog Lefty. You probably know a lot about Lefty. He’s a real pain, so I’ve written a fair amount about him. (Here’s one link. If you want more, type “Lefty” in my blog’s search window.) Gracie hisses at Lefty and Lefty goes running. The other night, Kit and I heard Lefty crying on the first floor from our second floor bedroom. We wondered what was wrong. Then we heard some hissing and a tussle and finally Lefty came running up the stairs. Apparently Gracie was blocking his way.

So Monday, took Gracie that specializes in giving radioactive iodine treatment to thyroid-challenged cats. Apparently, the radiation kills whatever it is that makes these cats ill and crazy. Gracie is supposed to come home today after three days in radioactive isolation.

Or not. I can only think of Schrödinger’s cat.

Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment thunk up in the last century by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger to illustrate the paradoxical nature of quantum mechanics. In the thought experiment a cat, a flask of poison, and a source of radioactivity are put into a box. A sensor capable of detecting radioactivity is also placed in the box. If the sensor does detect radioactivity, it breaks the flask of poison and the cat dies. If no radioactivity is detected, the cat continues to live.

One interpretation of quantum mechanics (the Copenhagen interpretation) says that the quantum state of particles (or waves?) are not determined until we observe them. Until we observe them, they exist simultaneously in all possible states: both wave and particle, for example, until we look, at which point it becomes one or the other. This weirdness applies to radioactivity so, as long as we don’t look into the box, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Once we open the box and observe the situation, however, the cat immediately becomes either alive or dead.

Apparently, cats don’t qualify as observers of quantum states.

So until Gracie comes home, she is simultaneously both alive and dead.

And Lefty is simultaneously sad and happy.

Poppy is always happy if she has food.


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