08/12/2013 09:45 am ET

Erwin Schrödinger Google Doodle Asks: Is The Cat Dead Or Alive?


Austrian scientist Erwin Schrödinger is responsible for asking many of the strangest and most difficult questions in physics. His most famous query: Is the cat alive or dead?

On Monday, Google celebrated the 126th anniversary of Schrödinger's birth with a Google Doodle. The Doodle illustrates Schrödinger's celebrated thought experiment, today called "Schrödinger's cat."

In the experiment, a cat is placed in a metal box with a radioactive substance. The substance has a 50/50 chance of setting off a Geiger counter, which measures radioactivity. If the Geiger counter is activated, it breaks a bottle of poison, killing the cat. In this scenario, the cat either lives or dies, but there is a moment before the box is opened in which it is, in theory, both dead and alive at the same time. It is only when someone looks at the cat that it becomes dead or alive.

Born in Vienna in 1887, Schrödinger studied quantum mechanics, and developed his famous equation (called the Schrödinger equation) in 1925. He and theoretical physicist Paul A.M. Dirac were awarded the 1933 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the equation.

The questions Schrödinger raised are still being studied by both physicists and philosophers today, and his legacy survives both on Earth and beyond. The Erwin Schrödinger International Institute for Mathematical Physics was founded in Vienna in 1993. There is also a crater on the far side of the Moon named for Schrödinger.


Google Doodle Slideshow