The thought experiment known as Schrödinger’s cat is one of the most famous, and misunderstood, concepts in quantum mechanics. By thinking deeply about it, researchers have come to spectacular insights about physical reality.
Who came up with Schrödinger’s cat?
The Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger, who helped found the discipline of quantum mechanics, first conceived of his feline conundrum in 1935 as a commentary on problems originally posed by the luminary Albert Einstein, according to an article in Quanta Magazine.
While developing their new understanding of the subatomic realm, most of Einstein and Schrödinger’s colleagues had realized that quantum entities exhibited extremely odd behaviors. The Danish physicist Niels Bohr championed an understanding that particles like electrons did not have well-defined properties until they were measured. Before that, the particles existed in what’s known as a superposition of states, with, for example, a 50% chance of being oriented “up” and a 50% chance of being oriented “down.”
Einstein, in particular, did not like this indecisive explanation. He wanted to know how, exactly, the universe knows that someone is measuring something. Schrödinger highlighted this absurdity with his notorious conceptual cat.