Schrodinger's Cat

Erwin Schrodinger, man of science, and proud,
             Stared at his candle and wondered aloud,
"O little electrons, so marv'lously small,
             The essence of matter, the essence of all.

I love you, electrons! I love you to bits!
             But why do you give all us scientists fits?"

Schrodinger knew what Niels Bohr had proclaimed,
             And he hated to see his electrons defamed.
He loved 'em like babies and sure didn't want 'em
             Defined as some sort of indefinite quantum,
A figment with no certain nature at all,
             A phantom enigma, neither Peter, nor Paul.
So he dug through his papers and reread Bohr's article.
             An electron, it said, was often a particle,
But only a particle if your instruments gave
             Particle readings. Otherwise, it was wave.
That is, if wave-meters were set to detect it.
             Beyond that, science couldn't perfect it,
Or test how electrons behaved on their own,
             When no one was looking and they were alone.
Was it wave-like or bit-like? It couldn't be both
             Without violating a physical truth.
And wave-theory had yet another weird flaw
             That seemed to offend Einstein's General law,
What Bohr had described as, "non-locality,"
             Action-at-a-distance-faster-than-C.
Said Erwin to Socksy, his Siamese cat,
             "The one thing I want to discover is that:
What's an electron when the camera's not on it.
             'Twould be a fine feather to put in my bonnet.
O Socks, if I could just think of a way

             To measure electrons while looking away."
Socksy, the cat, didn't like what was cooking,
             A man who thought he could look without looking.
She eased herself slowly from sofa to floor
             And silently started to head for the door.
But, "Eureka!" cried Erwin, "Eureka! I've got it!
             "I'll do it! It's brilliant! There's no doubt about it."

And the rest of the day, in his lab on a lattice,
             He hammered together a strange apparatus.
Then rubbing his hands with a chuckle of glee,
             He said, "Socksy, ole buddy, come in here and see.
"We're about to make history, Socksy. Your fame
             Will soon be assured for all time, and your name
Will be reverenced in science when men recall that
             SCHRODINGER DID IT! and Schrodinger's cat.
So come in, pussy dear. Oh, your daddy is smart!
             And I'll show you how Schrodinger's cat can take part.
Here, I've pointed a beam from a light beam-dispenser
             To shine on this plate. It's a particle-sensor.
But I've taken the light-switch outside, where I'll be
             When I've sealed up this lab so no human can see.
In this clamp is a pistol, a Colt 42,
             With a clip full of ammo and a hair-trigger too.
If the sensor counts particles more than a minute,
             The Colt will discharge every slug that is in it.
It's aimed at this plywood container, you see,
             With a lid and a latch and a lock and a key.
And here's where you come in, old buddy, old Socks.
             Guess who we're going to put in the box!
But what if electrons are wave-like, you say.
             And the particle-counter counts nothing all day.
Fear not, pussy dear. That's exactly the puzzle
             We're going to solve. See, your box has this nozzle.
The nozzle's attached to this red, rubber hose
             That comes from this gas tank, and this wire goes
To a wave-oscillation-detector, right here.
             Now all of our bases are covered, my dear.
If wave-lengths are present, it won't let them pass,
             And your box will fill up with the cyanide gas.
What a test! Double-blind! All that science could desire!
             I vacate the lab, throw the switch, and retire.
In the morning, we'll know…when we open the box...
             What those electrons have done for you, Socks.
When we find if your fate was the gas or the gun,
             Puzzle solved! Nobel Prize! O, Ain't science fun!"

Well, imagine, dear reader, if you had been Socks,
             How you would have felt, crouching there in your box.
A wee nervous, no doubt, if not actually bitter,
             For Erwin forgot to add any cat-litter.
In the morning, Schrodinger came at a trot
             To see what his little electrons had wrought.
But Socks wasn't there! And what greeted his eyes
             Was a note from his cat and a nasty surprise.
"Daddy Dear," said the note, "It's just been a pleasure
             To live with a guy who lives just to measure
God's whole creation, the big and the small.
             Thank God for scientists! God bless 'em all!
Though you ended my life and tampered my fate,
             I'll find a life elsewhere. I still have eight.
And absent my corpse you will never find out
             What the electron dilemma's about.
And frankly, dear daddy, I think it's just swell.
             That I know the answer, cuz I'll never tell.
Keep after it, Erwin! You're just a great guy,
             And I've left you this pile to remember me by.
Think of it, daddy, as my parting kiss.
             Bye-bye, Erwin Schrodinger. MEASURE THIS! "