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Dance of the Puppets

Like a bat on a hot tin roof since August 2005

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Shrödinger's Cat Toy

So as I understand it the thing about collectables is that you can't actually open the packaging to read the comic or play with the toy or whatever because if you did that then they are no longer in mint condition and therefore not collectable. And these collectables, particularly toys such as action figures include special variants that are basically the regular version with a minor cosmetic difference such as a slightly different paint job, to artificially create a much rarer collectable at minimal extra cost. For this market I have now created the ultimate collectible: Shrödinger's Cat Toy.

For those that are unaware, Schrödinger's cat is a seemingly paradoxical theoretical experiment devised by Erwin Schrödinger. The experiment proposes that a cat be placed in a sealed box. Within the box is a device that will kill the cat (such as a canister of poison gas) which is attached to a trigger that will operate randomly with a 50% chance of going off in an hour. According to quantum theory at the end of the hour the cat is both alive and dead until the box is opened and the result observed. Thus the observer becomes an integral part of the experiment.

The simplicity of the Cat Toy lies in its collectability. Ninety nine out of one hundred Shroedinger's Cat Toy boxes are empty. Only the hundredth contains the actual toy. But the packaging is constructed so that it is impossible to tell the difference between the one containing the actual toy and one without, as they are exactly the same in size and weight. The packaging is also constructed so that the only way to open the box to find out whether it contains the toy will destroy the packaging beyond repair.

Thus it is impossible to ever know whether you have the ultra-rare real Cat Toy without opening the box. If you open the box it is no longer in collectable condition, regardless of whether it contains the toy or not. And so according to Schrödinger's theory this therefore means that every box simultaneously contains the toy and doesn't contain the toy.

It's a quantum collectable. It'll drive collectors insane...

31 Comments:

Blogger Commander Xero said...

That has to be the most brilliant thing I've ever heard.

9:57 pm  
Blogger Sleestak said...

"What ever did you do the cat? It's half dead!" - Shroedinger's Wife

2:28 am  
Anonymous The one who called himself Werner Heisenberg said...

The best thing is that since this is a gedanken toy, you don't have to open the box to play with it.

5:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cute, but opening the box is not a quantum event, thus the whole business about the box simultaneously containing and not containing the toy is erroneous. Also, there is no 'a' in 'collectible'!

3:03 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Naturally, the poison gas in the real one will also kill the person who peeks and discovers the cat plus the poison gas canister.

8:13 pm  
Anonymous Seán said...

Offer a full refund for anyone who opens the package and finds the toy, no refund if the package is empty. Then people are actually collecting the empty boxes as the ones with toys are worthless.

2:07 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

shouldn't 50% of the boxes contain the cat?

7:20 pm  
Anonymous AshPlant said...

It doesn't matter how many boxes have cats in them. It's still a random chance with only two options. In fact, if you didn't tell anybody, there wouldn't need to be a cat at all. As far as everyone knew, each box would still either contain a cat or not.

7:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The experiment wouldn't work anyway. Put a cat in a sealed box for an hour and it will have died of suffocation, regardless of the presence of poison, so after about 5 minutes the cat can't be dead and alive, it will only be dead!

9:08 pm  
Anonymous Vampire Tribble said...

That last one was me, but the preview defaulted to anonymous...

9:09 pm  
Anonymous Arafelis said...

Highly amusing, but what about x-rays, ultrasound, and the like?

9:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The experiment wouldn't work anyway. Put a cat in a sealed box for an hour and it will have died of suffocation"

Guess that depends on the size of the box.

10:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What would make this extra special, is that the actual toy would be something equally enjoyable to be played with by live or dead cats...

6:02 am  
Blogger That Pale Chick said...

Collectors will weep for your cruelty but O! the brilliance!

6:26 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The experiment wouldn't work anyway. Put a cat in a sealed box for an hour and it will have died of suffocation, regardless of the presence of poison, so after about 5 minutes the cat can't be dead and alive, it will only be dead!

That's not the point. The point is that until you open the box and observe the result, after whatever interval of time you decide on, you don't know whether the cat is alive or dead, therefore it is both alive and dead at the same time.

8:46 am  
Anonymous Arafelis said...

The point is that until you open the box and observe the result...

Weeelll... no, technically. You don't actually have to observe the result to give the cat's probability of life a near-zero value (and since even an apparently dead cat has a slightly higher than zero probability of life, you can be safe with that). All you have to do to do so is rule out supernatural influences (ie, "wonder cat"), which is fairly safe. This is really what the experiment is about- in a quantum situation, things (may) exist as probabilities- so a quantum cat with a 50% probability of life is literally half alive. Since you can't be half alive, the cat has to interact with something to determine whether or not it is actually alive or actually dead.

9:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With this toy, you can observe "the result" in more ways than just opening the box. We have the technology these days to see inside the box without opening it. Thus rendering the whole thing obsolete.

1:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you didn't read article very well.
"But the packaging is constructed so that it is impossible to tell the difference between the one containing the actual toy and one without, as they are exactly the same in size and weight. The packaging is also constructed so that the only way to open the box to find out whether it contains the toy will destroy the packaging beyond repair."

Note the use of the term 'impossible'.

5:19 pm  
Anonymous SanctumSanctorumComix said...

Erwin Schrödinger's Cat theory fails to take into account that all you need to do is shake the box.

A live cat will move around and you'd feel the "kick".

I know he's referring to the metaphysical abstract, dealing with perception being the true relaity, but that's just falling into the trap of self-importance.

As if a person NEEDS to behold something in order for it to be real.

This faulty logic is much like "if a tree falls in the forest but no-one is there to hear it: does it make a sound?"

Well, YES. Yes it does.
Because unless the tree is on the MOON with no atmosphere, the air will carry the soundwaves, whether there is anyone there to RECEIVE them or not.

Both questions are rudimentary and almost childlike in their naivete.

Made even moreseo by their attempt at being "brilliant".

It's much like "Can you really know if YOU are the real you and not the one that lives in the mirror? Maybe THAT is the real you and YOU are the reflection?"

Damn... I have a ghotee and look quite a bit like Spock, AND have the off-hand evil thought now and again, so "Mirror, Mirror" won't help me figure it out.

But it's moot.
Because Erwin Schrödinger was placed in a box in 1961 and as far as I know no one has lifted his lid since.

Damn, am I snarky today.

~P~
P-TOR

6:41 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not about perception being reality, it is about the fact that observing something changes it. Any form of observation into the box collapses the possibilities. It was an early illustration of the limits of the Copenhagen interpretation, in which a system stops being a "superposition of states" and becomes either one or the other when an observation takes place.
It doesn't say that the cat doesn't exist, just that it exists in a state of possibility until it is observed.

8:54 pm  
Anonymous JeepersTseepers said...

Even if the box COULD be x-rayed to see what's inside without opening it, that doesn't change anything; it is the observer and the act of observing that is critical in the model--not the METHOD of observing. Open the box or x-ray it, it doesn't matter: either one immediately brings the experiment to an end and results in the toy either being there or not. So the idea still works, and I find it very amusing.

1:51 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant!I've cross posted this link in my journal *much applause*.-wigners friend

For more schroedingers cat malarkey check out the song 'cat in a box' at www.soundclick.com/thatchnoir

2:49 am  
Blogger Rose said...

Excellent! *applause*

12:15 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Briliant!

I so must share this with my friends for i know they will apreceate it as I do.

4:35 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, those arguing against the theory itself you are missing the point. (You should have started this out with a note that if you have never heard this theory you should check it out THEN come here.)

He was making a novelty of this theory not arguing for it's merit.

THat being said... ANyone saying you could pick up the box and rattle it are just as ridiculous as schroedinger himself or perhaps are unfamiliar with teh animal called the "cat". If you were you would realize that a cat placed in a box would probably not shut up for about ten days.

12:16 am  
Anonymous FuzzyBunny said...

"Thus it is impossible to ever know whether you have the ultra-rare real Cat Toy without opening the box."

Unless you have access to an Xray machine of some type... You could just put the toy box in a carry-on bag, go through the security check at the airport and check it out on the TV screen...


-- FuzzyBunny

11:20 pm  
Anonymous FuzzyBunny said...

oops I missed that someone already said that!

11:26 pm  
Blogger planet-tom said...

Until this hits retail stores, you amuse yourself with my Schrödinger's Cat Simulator!

8:36 pm  
Anonymous Clayton Rabenda said...

Arafelis : "Highly amusing, but what about x-rays, ultrasound, and the like?"
That would 'collapse the wavefunction' and cause the cat to either be dead or alive. You cannot observe the cat in any way. ;)

9:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There's already a toy like that. It's called Magic: The Gathering -- or any other collectable game. For anyone who collects those things, the contents of those boosters are as worthless as nothing at all unless it has what you want.

2:46 pm  
Anonymous Markus said...

Good Job! :)

2:54 pm  

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