Schroedinger’s Cat: The Real Story

No doubt many readers are familiar with the 1935 thought-experiment known as Schroedinger’s Cat. It theorized that if one were to put a cat into a closed box equipped with a Geiger counter rigged to trigger the release of a poison gas when an atom introduced into the box begins to decay, the device would kill the cat…or not. The point of the exercise being that one cannot know whether the cat is dead or alive until one opens the box and observes its contents. Quantum theorist Schroedinger posited that – until the moment of such observation – the cat is both dead and alive.

The experiment was summarily abandoned when PETA – having caught wind of what was going on –picketed Schroedinger’s lab, bringing things to a screeching halt.

That is, until 1975 when (according to information provided to this reporter by reliable sources) the physicist’s grandson, noted microbiologist Franck N. Stine-Schroedinger, came across his grandfather’s notes and determined to validate Opa’s theory by actually carrying out the experiment.

Availing himself of state-of-the-art technical facilities at Tokyo University, where he then headed the Biology department, Stine-Schroedinger elected to conduct the experiment alone and in secret, lest his efforts attract the attention of Japanese animal-rights activists.

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned.

For starters, the electro-magnetic coupling between the Geiger counter and the poison flask failed to operate, dousing the cat with radiation instead of cyanide. Furthermore, the Cesium-55 atom which was to have been delivered to the lab in a lead-lined Ziploc® bag by collaborators at the recently completed Fukushima power plant was, in fact, Cesium-137, a highly toxic isotope which left the cat in a state of suspended animation, i.e., neither dead nor alive.

The unnamed cat, a white, female, Japanese Bobtail, was rushed to Sanrio Animatronics where she was successfully re-animated. Adopted by employees of Sanrio, she became the inspiration for Sanrio’s cartoon character, Hello Kitty, a global brand-marketing phenomenon that – at peak popularity – was generating $500M a year in licensing fees.

Prof. Stine-Schroedinger, not wishing to claim ownership of the cat lest his failed experiment come to light, did not participate in the windfall.