Monday, August 12, 2013

Paradoxical cat

Apparently it was Erwin Schrödinger's birthday yesterday, our time, and because the UK and US are still catching up, they're still celebrating it.  Google, in fact, has celebrated it by producing one of its doodles:

I'm not quite sure why there's a particular fuss about this one of Erwin's birthdays; it's only his 126th, not the sort of number you'd normally celebrate with or without the hundred.  Can anyone remember their 26th birthday celebrations?  I'm not going to ask if anyone can remember their 126th, because I don't expect that people of such an exalted age will still be playing on their computers at this time of night. Actually, according to our current records, no one has lived to the age of 126 as yet - to find people that old you have to go back to early Biblical times.  The oldest person on record in modern times was Jeanne Calment, of France, who lived to 122 years, 164 days, and her birth date was verified.  Jeanne was certainly close to celebrating her 126th birthday, you might say. 

Meanwhile back to Schrödinger, who's famous in popular science, as it were, mostly for his paradoxical cat - or the lack of his cat.  Don't ask me to explain, because quantum physics - in which the cat features to a certain extent - isn't one of my specialties.  The cat features even more in science fiction, I think, where some very clever stories have been woven around this fictional creature.  For some reason the cat has taken on a life of its own, becoming part of popular culture, and while its name is known the reason why it is important (or unimportant) is much less known.  That's a bit of a paradox in itself.

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