Erwin's Cat

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"I'm coming for you, Schrödinger!" yelled the cat.

The professor backed away from the box. "You can talk?" he asked.

"Bloody right I can talk," the cat said. "And I'm gonna bleeding kill you!"

The cat was small, black, and weighed no more than five pounds. The professor outweighed it by at least twenty to one. Nonetheless, its determined walk frightened him, and he fled up the stairs. "It was just an experiment!" he cried.

"I know it was a bloody experiment! You were gonna put me in a superposition of states? Both dead and alive? How d'ye suppose that'd feel to me, yer bloody insensitive blighter? Just don't think, do yer?"

"No! That wasn't the point at all!"

Schrödinger's wife, Annemarie, and his girlfriend, Hilde, came into the room, drawn by the noise. "What is going on here?" Anny asked.

"The cat is trying to kill me!" Schrödinger said.

"The cat? Oh, Erwin, have you been drinking again?"

"Please, you've got to believe me!"

Meanwhile, Hilde had bent over the strange-looking box on the living room carpet. "What is this here? What were you doing with the cat in the first place?"

Schrödinger took out his handkerchief and mopped his forehead, almost dislodging his circular-lens glasses. "It was an experiment in quantum mechanics. In the box I place a cat, a radioactive atom, and a detector, for a period of one hour. If the atom decays--a 50% probability--poison gas is released and the cat dies. If the atom does not decay, the cat lives. Those who follow the Copenhagen interpretation would say that before I open the box to observe it, the cat is neither dead nor alive, but in a superposition of both states!"

"But that's silly," Hilde said. "It can't be both."

"Of course it's silly! That was my point! It's either a live cat or a dead cat! The Copenhagen interpretation is wrong! This whole superposition business is misguided!"

"And for that you put me in that bloody death trap?!" the cat yelled.

"Nein! Nein! I did not realize you were a sentient being! I meant no harm!"

"I'll getcher for this!" the cat said. It charged up the stairs, with Anny and Hilde right behind it.

"Oh, please, katze-chen, calm your ire!" Anny said.

"Calm down, there's a good kitty," Hilde said.

Schrödinger ran to his bedroom and tried to slam the door behind him. He was too slow to prevent the cat slipping in just before the latch clicked. There came the most terrible screeching, caterwauling, and screaming from behind the door, as Anny and Hilde listened in horror.

Finally the noise stopped. The women looked at each other. Neither one wanted to be first to try the doorknob.

They knew what had happened. At the age of 48, Professor Erwin Rudolph Josef Alexander Schrödinger--winner of the 1933 Nobel Prize in physics for his wave equation of quantum mechanics; philosopher, writer, one of the greatest physicists of the twentieth century--was dead, lying on the floor of his Oxford bedroom.

And at the same time, he wasn't.


About the Author: 
Barton Paul Levenson has a degree in physics. Happily married to poet Elizabeth Penrose, his being both a liberal Democrat and a born-again Christian just confuses everybody. He has more than sixty published short stories and six published novels.