What is it with cats and boxes? Despite all the talk of potentially dead cats, Schrödinger must have been a fan of the feline. He knew the perfect container for a cat was a box. Dog, not so much. Cat? May never come out. Which is sort of the point of the thought experiment. The cat might be both there and also not, but we know the box will remain on your shirt as long as you take care when washing it. Cuteness guaranteed. Live cat, not so much.
Schrödinger’s Cat is a thought experiment. In quantum physics, a subatomic particle can exist in multiple states at once (imagine coming to a fork in the road and going both left and right). All of these possibilities combined is a thing called quantum superposition. When the particle is observed, however, it collapses into a single state, giving us the option of left or right not some of both left and right at the same time.
To explain how difficult it is to conceive of this indeterminacy at a non-subatomic level, Schrödinger described a hypothetical experiment involving a cat. He puts the cat in an opaque box so that the cat cannot be observed. Also in the box is a flask of poisonous gas and a radioactive substance. The radioactive substance controls the flask so that when an atom decays, the gas is released. At any given moment, then, from outside the box, the cat is in a state of indeterminacy. From a theoretical perspec- tive, it’s both alive and dead at the same time… until we open the box.