Schrödinger's Caturday

By Phil Plait | December 10, 2011 7:00 am

You see, this is why I didn’t do very well in my graduate quantum mechanics class.

I couldn’t think outside the box.

Alternate captions:

"On the other hand we really don’t know her momentum at all."

"Placebo control groups really aren’t appropriate for quantum experiments."

"How science will be done under a Rick Perry Presidency."

"This is what happens when you let Schrödinger’s dog run the experiment."

"My quantum trap finally succeeded for capturing a mewon."

Related posts:

It’s Caturday? NONONONO.
Caturday: the demon on the couch
Caturday napping
Caturday night’s all right for fighting: Part 2
Big Caturday

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Caturday, Geekery, Humor, Pretty pictures

Comments (44)

Links to this Post

  1. Devin Tonhaeuser » Think Outside The Box | December 10, 2011
  1. Mike

    Successful experiment result: Caturday Night Live

  2. This certainly wasn’t the ‘Life-sized Pussy, for hours of enjoyment’ he’d expected to receive, when placing the order….


    I got it out the box – why wont it fit back in???.


    His grey market Taiwanese purchase, of a refurb iPad 2, left a bitter taste in his mouth.

  3. Chief

    Well, according to the thought experiment, Is the cat really in the box. You can still argue the point but it looks like 50-50.

    Although, according to the quantum states, all possible incomes are happening to the cat at any one time.

  4. Pluff

    That is the most pathetic expression I have ever seen on a cat’s face. I would lock my bedroom door tonight, if I were you. That feline is going to want revenge.

  5. Grand Lunar

    Schrodinger’s Cat, now available on!

    The state in which it will arrive it questionable, though. 😀

  6. John EB Good

    I’ve not seen them all, but that one is the funniest Caturday I’ve ever read/seen.

    I understand your plight of having to choose a proper caption. Supplying us with all of them illustrates too well how the uncertainty principle is sometime applicable to macroscopic scales also. 😀

  7. Gary Ansorge

    I wonder if Schrodinger had this problem?

    When setting up a QM experiment, be certain your box is big enough,,,

    ,,,and remember, cats have prefrontal lobes, which allows them to carefully plot their revenge,,,I still remember the Siamese that left me a gift UNDER my pillow, then watched from the bedroom doorway as I attempted to find the source of that stink,,,I swear she was laughing as she ran away,,,

    Gary 7

  8. What part of “don’t try this at home” didn’t you understand?

  9. Taiga

    What? No post about your appearance as a dress-up doll in today’s SMBC, Phil?

  10. Thomas Siefert

    Schrödinger’s infamous litter box experiment, splish or splash?
    You won’t know until you remove the cat.

  11. TMB

    Mewon? MEWON?? I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry…

  12. L.

    Surely, you’ve seen the following:

  13. “We’re all out of Schrodinger’s Packing Tape”

  14. Kap

    Either I don’t understand quantum mechanics or I just don’t understand the meme (yes, I realize it’s supposed to be cute). If the box is open and we can see the cat, then doesn’t that count as a measurement, and if so isn’t the superposition of the kitty resolved to a single outcome?

  15. Chris Winter

    “You see, this is why I didn’t do very well in my graduate quantum mechanics class.”

    And the cat seems appropriately disappointed.

  16. Chris Winter

    L. wrote: “Surely, you’ve seen the following:”

    What you’ve posted there is, I take it, a quantum URL.

  17. jcm

    Quantum cat is not impressed!

  18. On the plus side, the experiment demonstrated the the flow of time itself can be influenced by feline-generated Somnolon radiation, independent from outside measurement, and can contain a kitten without collapsing from a superposition of states.
    Unfortunately, the rapidly growing kitten soon destroyed the test apparatus and halted the experiment.

  19. Kitteh are dissapoi… disappoy… not happi wif tekscher ob yer new dust jaket on mai butt!

  20. katwagner

    If kitty was an aussie shepherd adolescent, the box would be torn into itty bitty pieces and they’d be all over the place. And aussie shepherd would have a very satisfied and oh-so-proud look on his face.

  21. DrFlimmer

    This … cat forced me to run through 800+ xkcd comics for over 3 hours to search for the comic, where someone ships cats in packages to freak out the receiver, and I even didn’t succeed.

    Thank you, Phil Plait, for probably one of the craziest Saturday evenings I ever had.


    P.S.: Bored cat is bored.

  22. @22 – I had an Aussie long ago. He’d have probably disassembled the box and used the parts to build a small house. Crazy smart dog.

  23. @DrFlimmer – did you mean this one?

  24. Thameron

    So what did cats do BEFORE the invention of boxes?

  25. That cat is absolutely not amused.

  26. Mick

    The experiment might have worked if you had a spherical cat in a vacuum.

  27. BA:

    Alternate captions:

    You forgot:
    “Apparently, Amazon has not yet acquired Time Lord technology.”
     (It’s not bigger on the inside.)

    Mick (#28):

    The experiment might have worked if you had a spherical cat in a vacuum.

    Good thing I wasn’t drinking anything at the time. Otherwise, you would owe me a new keyboard.

    See also

  28. Mephane

    “The experiment might have worked if you had a spherical cat in a vacuum.”

    With my knowledge of feline biology I can very well predict that every single sample cat will be dead at the end of that experiment. Your turn in trying to determine what that result would mean for quantum physics.

  29. Autumn

    Don’t worry kitten, “Mostly dead means slightly alive!”

  30. DrFlimmer

    @ Laura

    Yeah. That’s it. I must have skipped right over it. Thanks.

  31. LOL! Classic cat-in-a-box. Mrewrons – love that! :-)

    But you missed :

    – the Purr~fect experiment I don’t think so!

    – “How many of my nine lives are observed alive and left, mrow, now?”

    – Schrödinger is going to be in such trouble when the RSPCA hears about this!

    Cats are “connoisseurs of comfort” ( to quote James Herriott, English vet & author) – but that’s not a comfy looking cat.

    “On the other hand we really don’t know her momentum at all.”

    Pretty close to zero there surely? 😉

    Actually the current cat to own me – a black & gold tortosieshell named Zosma after the proper name of Delta Leonis – loves sleeeping in a cardboard box like that, although a slightly better fit it must be said! The same goes for several other felines that have owned me in the past or that I’ve been aquainted with in my time. Also cats seem to love sleeping on or even *in* my backpack.

    @28. Mick : The experiment might have worked if you had a spherical cat in a vacuum.

    With the cat in spacesuit too I hope! 😉

    (I’ve seen cats curl up into just about spheres at times & seen some that could just about fit that description too! 😉 )

  32. Messier Tidy Upper

    @ ^

    Cats are “connoisseurs of comfort” ( to quote James Herriot, English vet & author)

    See :

    For the wikipage on James Herriot.

    For one cat that loves an apparently under-sized box and manages to do a half TARDIS see :

    on youtube! :-)

    (Is that the one you were meaning, L. #13?)

    Of course, strange things might happen when you get scientists, people and cats mixed up together in some ace quantum strangeness :

    Okay, that’s not quite quantum physics but certainly some juxta / superpositioning going on! 😉

  33. Stephanie

    Will a cat continue to try to get into a box that is too small? Maru does the experiment.

  34. @33 MTU: Cats are “connoisseurs of comfort” ( to quote James Herriott, English vet & author) – but that’s not a comfy looking cat.

    I dunno about that – it seems that my cats always choose their sleeping spots based on how inconvenient they are for me, rather than how comfortable they are. Sure, they’ll sleep on the nice cozy couch we have when I’m not around, but if there’s a hardback textbook I need to read, they’re all over it. Same goes for laptops (even powered down and cold), shoes, guitar cases, anything hard that I leave on the floor, really (yes, I’m a slob).

    As for James Herriott, I love his books! I’ve only read 3 or 4, and I understand he wrote over a dozen, but they’re just great.
    For those who haven’t heard of him, he was a British country vet (meaning he worked on farm animals: horses and cows, as well as dogs and cats and other pets) who wrote a number of autobiographical stories about his life. The ones I read covered, I believe, the period between about 1930 and 1960, though he was still writing up until his death in 1995. A lot of his writing is quite funny, and worth reading for that alone, but also, anyone who loves animals should definitely look for his books. IMHO, they’re somewhat unique in that they’re interesting and accessible to kids and adults alike. All Creatures Great and Small would probably be the best one to start with, it’s part of sort of a trilogy. Great gift idea for any animal lovers you know who like reading :)

    EDIT: I just checked that wikipedia link – apparently each of the All Creatures Great and Small books were actually compilations of a couple each of his other books. So yeah, read that trilogy and you’ll have read most of his work. Color me disappointed though, I thought I had tons more to read 😛

  35. Thomas Siefert

    @Joseph G,

    The books have also been made into a TV series that span seven seasons over 90 episodes. No one makes better TV than BBC and “All Creatures” is no exception.

    The original house for his vet practice in Thirsk is now a museum that includes some sets from the TV production.
    I got a picture of myself in the first car he drives in the series and another with my arm up a cows bum. Oh yes, live life to the max!

  36. @37 Thomas Siefert: Hah! I have to ask, was this one of those cardboard cut-outs, of the sort you stick your head through to get a picture taken? Or was this a real cow? And if so, please tell me you didn’t pay for the privilege 😉
    Seriously, that’s very cool; the museum in particular. I’d heard there was some sort of TV, but had no idea it was such a big series. Unfortunately, I’m in the US, and the only BBC we get (at least on basic cable) is the occasional rerun of stuff like Fawlty Towers and Red Dwarf on PBS (public television).

  37. Thomas Siefert

    @Joseph G,

    It was a very… eh… an almost real cow made from glass fibre.

    You can buy the series on DVD from Amazon.

  38. OK, I can’t resist it…
    How to make an anti-gravity device:
    As well as quantum mechanics, this utilises two well-known laws – the one which says cats always land on their feet, and the example of Sod’s Law which says a slice of buttered toast always falls sticky side down.
    Attach a slice of buttered toast, sticky side up, to a cat’s back. Drop the cat from a height. Instead of falling, it will remain suspended in mid-air, rotating about its axis.
    At least, until someone observes it. :-)

  39. Nigel Depledge

    Mick (28) said:

    The experiment might have worked if you had a spherical cat in a vacuum.

    But, topologically, cats are toroidal (as are all mammals).

  40. @39 Thomas Siefert: ou can buy the series on DVD from Amazon.
    Unfortunately I’m right between jobs right now (I hope!) so my tastes are decidedly skewed toward anything with the word “free” in it.

    @49 Neil Haggath: I’d think there’d be quite a bit of torque being applied to the toast, much like trying to press two magnets together with the same poles facing each other. Since cats are extremely flexible, I’d think this would be a major engineering problem. Perhaps this is why, while the theory is well-known, this apparatus has never been successfully constructed 😀

    @41 Nigel: But, topologically, cats are toroidal (as are all mammals).
    Reptiles too, for that matter. Snakes are a great example. Hmm… I wonder how you’d describe the topology of an Ouroboros? Would that be similar to a Klein bottle? Or would it just be like dividing by zero? 😀

  41. ggremlin

    You’re heard of the pet rock, now here “Pet Theory in a Box” only from Amazon!

  42. Astrophel

    My cat (aptly named Schrödinger; he’s 6 years old and still very much in superposition) looks a bit like that when he’s found a box he can’t be dead and alive in at the same time. But he doesn’t like the box to be shut: when you open the box you find an angry cat inside.

    However, if you cut a hole to the side of the box smaller than his head, he’s endlessly happy trying grab anything you put near it. So, if the cat can detect outside the box, but you can’t detect him inside the box, is the cat there until you see his paw? Erwin Schrödinger meant the thought experiment to show that quantum effects can’t apply in the macroscopic world in a meaningful way.


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