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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Close Reading of "Schrödinger's Cat" by Ursula K. Le Guin

Originally appeared in Terry Carr's Universe.  Reprinted in Dozois' Magicats, in Joyce Carol Oates' American Gothic Tales, and in  Leebron, Geyh, Levy's Postmodern American Fiction.

The narrator and "Rover" (if that's his name, which it is probably is not, although it is likely a part of the grander uncertainty) argue whether they should conduct Schrödinger's classic thought experiment, supposedly illustrating the absurdity of quantum theory:
If a cat is trapped in a box with (Le Guin uses a random photon release to trigger a silent gun) a radioactive substance that randomly emits radiation which may cause poison (cyanide, I'd heard) to kill a cat.  If we don't open the box determining the outcome, then cat is indeterminate both dead and alive, which is absurd--for a cat.  This, however, is now seen as the actual way we understand electron behavior.
Le Guin offers that the experiment itself is absurd, suggesting we don't know what the actual system is and who/what all is apart of it, and who are the observers impacting the outcome. A good observation about science and how, to a degree, scientists determine some of the outcome they're looking for through their observation.  More should be aware of this aspect of science.

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