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“Schrodinger’s Cat” was not a real experiment and therefore did not scientifically prove anything. Schrodinger’s Cat is not even part of any scientific theory. Schrodinger’s Cat was simply a teaching tool that Schrodinger used to illustrate how some people were misinterpreting quantum theory. Schrodinger constructed his imaginary experiment with the cat to demonstrate that simple misinterpretations of quantum theory can lead to absurd results which do not match the real world. Unfortunately, many popularizers of science in our day have embraced the absurdity of Schrodinger’s Cat and claim that this is how the world really works.

In quantum theory, quantum particles can exist in a superposition of states at the same time and collapse down to a single state upon interaction with other particles. Some scientists at the time that quantum theory was being developed (1930’s) drifted from science into the realm of philosophy and stated that quantum particles only collapse to a single state when viewed by a conscious observer. Schrodinger found this concept absurd and devised his thought experiment to make plain the absurd yet logical outcome of such claims.

In Schrodinger’s imaginary experiment, you place a cat in a box with a tiny bit of radioactive substance. When the radioactive substance decays, it triggers a Geiger counter which causes a poison or explosion to be released that kills the cat. Now, the decay of the radioactive substance is governed by the laws of quantum mechanics. This means that the atom starts in a combined state of “going to decay” and “not going to decay”. If we apply the observer-driven idea to this case, there is no conscious observer present (everything is in a sealed box), so the whole system stays as a combination of the two possibilities. The cat ends up both dead and alive at the same time. Because the existence of a cat that is both dead and alive at the same time is absurd and does not happen in the real world, this thought experiment shows that wavefunction collapses are not just driven by conscious observers.

Credit: Science Questions with Surprising Answers, Ridddle