Schrödinger’s Cat & Time Travel
As Destiny of the Departed opens, Jamie is faced with the idea of traveling back in time and purposely changing Time. More like fixing it, but that doesn’t alleviate her concerns.
These days with TV shows like The Flash, Doctor Who, and The Big Bang Theory, (to name just a few) discussions of time travel have pretty much entered mainstream thinking. However, you may not realize these ideas didn’t begin with these TV shows. And, even if you watch one of these shows faithfully, how much do you really know?
We’ll begin blogs on time travel with one of Sheldon’s favorites: Schrödinger’s Cat. In case you don’t watch the show, this isn’t the name of Sheldon Cooper’s cat.
First, the cat didn’t exist. Schrödinger did. More specifically, his name was Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger. (And you thought his last name was hard!) Schrödinger lived between 1887 and 1961 and was an Austrian physicist who developed results in the field of quantum theory. Not to get too technical immediately, is a theoretical framework that combines classical field theory, special relativity, and quantum mechanics and is used to construct physical models of subatomic particles (in particle physics) and quasiparticles (in condensed matter physics). His work earned him a Nobel Prize.
OK, if that last sentence confused you, imagine trying to present the topic in a way that is both engaging and easy to follow for readers without writing a bunch of mind-bending sentences that might earn me a Nobel Prize, if it weren't for the fact someone else discovered the information first!
Jamie Poole, who has schooled herself on quantum mechanics as she worries over impacting Time by traveling through it, tries to explain it using one of Schrödinger’s more common thought experiments. Ah, we’ve gotten back to the cat at last.
Jamie explains to Lenore:
“Schrödinger's cat is one of the most famous paradoxes. It’s more of a thought experiment, but basically it defines what a paradox is, and what I might create if I go back in time.”
I sighed deeper, considering how to explain. “In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger illustrated what he saw as a problem of Quantum Mechanics applied to everyday objects. In his scenario, he presents that a cat may be simultaneously dead and alive. Quantum superposition.”
When I paused to think, Lenore asked, “How can a cat be both alive and dead?”
“He suggests you seal him in a box. If you don’t open it, you don’t know if the cat is alive or dead. In that state, he is both.” I braced, and she didn’t disappoint.
“Stuffing a cat in a box and theorizing if it’s dead or alive is cruel. Has the SPCA reviewed this theory?”
“It’s not a real cat. It’s a common theory discussed in Quantum mechanics…”
“Stop right there, Stephen Hawking. Quantum mechanics, cats that aren’t real cats. I’m just an art student. How did you learn all this? You’re not Sheldon Cooper.”
“I went to the library a few times last week.”
“Of course you did! You know we have Internet in our room right? Cool invention. You can read websites from all over the world. In your pajamas! Or naked, if that’s your thing.”
I cleared my throat. “There’s something to be said about libraries. There was a specific old book I wanted to read.”
“Ah, Indiana Jones is back. All is right with the world. Just quit obsessing, OK? You’re going to be fine. No paradoxes or shit. Besides, according to Duff, some guy’s beat you to the paradox thing, remember?”
I scowled. “That only concerns me more. I can’t help it, Lenore. Forget the cat. If the death of these people is a fixed event—a point that cannot—should not—be changed and I change it, what happens then? The Butterfly Effect. Before you ask, that’s a concept that states that small causes have larger effects. Saving people will cause a larger effect. I can’t determine what.”
And while this discussion means to add some humor and more simply explain quantum mechanics, this is a serious scientific study. Others, including the recently-departed Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein also researched theories.
This is just a bit of the fact behind the fiction.
There must be something to it. After all, how many TV shows are there on time travel really?
To get your copy of Destiny of the Departed, here are handy links. It can be purchased on any Amazon store as well as Kobo and GooglePlay.