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paul conneally

From dogs to equations - when ever I hear 'equation' i'm back at Oxford Polytechnic (which just like Oldton has dissapeared replaced with something called Oxford Brookes University)- in a Physics lecture - Shrodinger's Equation - I think I used to know it - but not any more - all memory of it other than its name has gone - that equation's name has stayed with me as has the story of 'Schrodinger 's cat' who is 'dead and not dead'... like OLdton and all the folks that lived live there...

Of course Shrodinger was working at the early stages of our understnading of quantum physics/mechanics but essentially raises the whole question of the role of 'observer' in bringing things into reality making things happen or not - his 'cat' thought experiment was first written up in a letter to Albert Einstein and this section of it brings us right back to photographs...

"One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrochloric acid. If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The [wave] function of the entire system would express this by having in it the living and dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.

It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a "blurred model" for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks."

Paul T Conneally
Education & Regional Director World Haiku Club

Director Haikumania Project

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