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Wednesday, March 26, 2003  

Paging Dr. Schrödinger

So there’s this box. It’s airtight, opaque, and soundproof. The box contains a radioactive particle that has a fifty percent chance of decaying. If it does, it’ll trigger a mechanism that releases poisonous gas into the box. Which also contains a cat. Which will die if the particle decays.

So, does anybody know where I can get one of these boxes? Preferably with two radioactive particles?

Okay, actually there’s no such box in real life, and those of you who already knew that can skip to the next paragraph. The box is basically a thought experiment concocted by a theoretical physicist named Schrödinger, who never put an actual cat inside a potentially deadly box, as far as I know. It’s designed to illustrate how something can be in two seemingly contradictory states at once. The argument goes that since the cat has a fifty-fifty chance of being dead, until we open the box and find out, the cat is effectively neither alive nor dead. Or possibly both. The “both” part is why Schrödinger is famous, because people either hear that and shout GENIUS! like Jon Lovitz as Master Thespian or they say that it’s the stupidest thing they’ve ever heard.

Interestingly, I can’t tell you whether Schrödinger himself is dead or alive because I don’t know. I haven’t looked it up. And don’t e-mail me to tell me. Let’s just see how he likes it.

But the reason I’m inquiring about a box in the first place is Strat. A couple of nights ago, he decided for reasons known only to himself that our day should begin promptly at 4:30 a.m. Effective immediately. He has taken to communicating the new schedule to us, loudly and insistently, for fifteen minutes every pre-dawn half hour. He’s not hungry. He’s not thirsty. He’s just bored, and it’s time for us to get up.

We didn’t think much of it on Tuesday morning. Trash and I woke up for a little while, made the best of it, and went back to sleep. Again, for a little while. Because at 5:00 a.m., Strat loudly reminded us that we were a half-hour behind schedule. Then he provided us with lengthy, frequent, high-decibel updates on the situation thereafter. Although he was thoughtful enough to call it a morning sometime around seven-thirty, allowing us to sleep through our comparatively quiet alarms so we could be late for work.

Last night, we went to bed early, hoping to make up for lost rest. Strat decided we were all caught up sometime around 4:00 a.m. this morning, and commenced his impersonation of a squeaky air-raid siren from his perch on Trash’s computer chair. Around 5:30, I came to a more profound understanding of Schrödinger’s box and its concepts of simultaneous yet contradictory duality. I was neither asleep nor awake, yet I was both. I neither loved nor hated my cat, yet I did both. I neither strangled him nor stuffed him in a Schrödinger’s box, yet in the fitful dreams of my REM-deprived mind, I did both.

We’ve never locked the cat out of the bedroom for the night without a pretty good reason. Even when I developed an allergy to the way Strat would curl up on my chest and shed delicate little potholders of cat fur into my eyes, mouth, and nose, I started taking medicine rather than banishing him. I don’t mind a little mild blindness and asphyxiation now and then in the name of kitty affection, but since he’s a) messing with my sleep, and b) doing so by being a rude asshole, one more night of this is going to find him in the hallway trying to wake up the doorknob. The only times the cat has been evicted overnight, it’s been for his own health or safety.

Now that I think about it, that’s not really changing.

posted by M. Giant 3:48 PM 0 comments


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