The cat

I found myself trying to explain to someone about the so-called Schrödinger’s Cat experiment. I am sure you will have heard of it, and it comes in many varieties, but basically is:

  • you take an opaque box, a live cat, some poisonous gas and a device that will release the gas at random. The chance of the gas being released is 50%, and if it is, the cat dies. You put it all in the box and close the lid.
  • After a time, you open the box

At this point, there is some discussion along these lines:

  • the cat will either be alive or dead. As it is in an opaque box and we cannot know, what state is in, we can say the chance of it being alive is 50%. We can say that the cat’s state is 50% alive and 50% dead.

OK, so, firstly, it’s a thought experiment. You could, I suppose, do it for real, but that would be pointless and cruel.

The conclusion does not really mean that the cat is 50% dead and 50% alive. It’s an idea to try to explain something in quantum mechanics. It’s to do with observation. It doesn’t matter what you think the cat is, you can only find out whether it really is alive by observing it in some way (eg lift the lid). In quantum mechanics, the act of observation can affect the object you are observing, but it only applies to very small objects, not cats. This is an analogy, so don’t add more to it than there is.

The person I was chatting with understood it to mean that the cat would literally be half dead and half alive, in some kind of transitional state. And this highlights a problem to do with analogies, and the rather deplorable lack of even general knowledge about science.

It goes with the argument “we don’t understand everything about science, so ghosts and parapsychology and human invisibility could easily exist”.

Insurance

I used to visit the USA a lot, and other places. I found that it was worth it for me to buy an annual travel insurance. After two journeys, it was basically paid for.

You really have to have some travel insurance. You never know what might happen.

But I have an existing medical condition that is not life threatening but needs medication (pills). So, when I apply for insurance, I tell them what I have. It’s never been a problem for me, at home or away.

Because I have a condition, my insurance goes up. A lot.

And this seems very unfair. I know what I have, it’s being treated, it’s under control, it’s not a problem. A person who has something they don’t know about will get cheaper insurance. Just because you don’t know (and therefore don’t say) doesn’t mean you don’t have it, and you could possibly succumb while you are away.

So, the people who have medical problems and get them under control get penalised, and others with problems do not. Ignorance is bliss, they say.

Facebook

I used to be on Facebook. Actually, initially I was on MySpace, which I think is still going in some form or other. There were some people there that I found who had similar interests to me, and we had some good chats, but then people left for FB.

I joined, to find out what it was all about, then did nothing for some years. Gradually, even my most die hard anti-technology friends joined.

I posted some holiday photos, interesting links and little else. I did comment on other people’s stuff occasionally, always positively.

But, you know what, it’s boring. The people who are real friends, people I care about, I am in contact with by other means too.

So I decided to deactivate my account. Not completely delete it, because there could be reasons why I may need to recover it in the future, but I am gone.

I gradually removed friends, knocked off 50 or so, no-one noticed. My account has been gone for a month, no-one has noticed.

Instant stuff

It’s interesting to see that instant photography is still around. When I say instant, I mean that the pictures come out pf the camera in a physical form and after a short period develop.

The best known name in the field is Polaroid. When I worked in a camera shop, we sold a lot of Polaroid cameras. The original ones I sold were black and white.

The film came in two parts, and, after the photo was taken, you would pull out both parts as one, through rollers. This action would release the developer. You would tear off the picture from the camera, wait a short time and then peel off the photograph.

They then went onto a system where everything was enclosed within the print, so it was less messy. Even the battery pack was a part of the film cartridge, an innovation for the time.

You pressed a button and the picture came out, through the rollers, and developed as you watched. Best picture results were obtained in bright light.

The name Polaroid is still around. I am not sure it is the same company, that made cameras and sunglasses, but it’s there.

Fuji also made instant picture cameras, and they are still around.

In a way, these systems were good. When you usually had to get your film developed, getting the snap immediately was great fun, especially at special events. It was a talking point. The quality was, well, modest.

The biggest hang up for me was the cost. A set of 10 shots today can work out at up to £2 per picture, with no guarantee of success. It’s fun, but expensive fun.