Tech Art by Rob Gonsalves
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Schrödinger v. Cat 2012   
Schrödinger v. Cat is an interactive video installation that allows visitors to run experiments to test the famous quantum physics paradox devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger..
Dimensions: 3 ft x 10 ft x 3ft
Materials: rubber, wood, computer with custom software, video projector, LCD display
In 1935, Schrödinger proposed a thought experiment to illustrate what he saw as a problem with the current theory of quantum mechanics of his time, the Copenhagen interpretation, as applied to everyday objects. The scenario presents a cat that might be alive or dead, depending on an earlier random event.

In a hypothetical experiment, a cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following devices: a tiny bit of radioactive material like uranium, a Geiger counter connected to a relay, which in turn is connected to a hammer positioned over a small flask of hydrocyanic acid, a poisonous gas.

In the course of an hour, one of the uranium atoms may or may not decay, with equal probability. If an atom does decay, the Geiger counter will sense it and trigger the relay to release the hammer that will shatter the flask of poison, killing the cat. If there is no radioactive decay, then the cat lives.

According to the laws of quantum mechanics, while the box is closed, the system will simultaneously exist in a superposition of the states "decayed nucleus/dead cat" and "undecayed nucleus/living cat," and that only when the box is opened and an observation performed does the wave function collapse into one of the two states.

The three major elements of the installation are the test bench, the experimental "chamber", and a giant eyeball, which acts as the observer.

The test bench is a large wooden box (WDH: 3' x 3' x 3.5') that provides a platform for the chamber and presents a set of user controls to the visitor.

The chamber is a smaller box (WDH: 20" x 20" x 13") that sits on top of the test bench and houses the apparatus and the subject of the experiment. The front face of the chamber is an LCD display. Small speakers provide sound effects during the experiments.

The giant eyeball, an inflated white ball (Diameter: 2'), is attached to the ceiling, and is positioned directly over the chamber. The projection system for the eyeball is hidden inside the test bench along with the CPU. The top of the chamber is open to allow the light from the projector to pass through.

The experiment is shown on the LCD display using a real-time OpenGL simulation. The apparatus on the screen includes a uranium isotope, a Geiger counter, a hammer rigged on a pulley, and a flask of hydrocyanic acid.
Schrödinger v. Cat was shown at COLLISION17:transformer, Axiom Gallery, Boston, MA, Mar 02 to Apr 07, 2012

© 2012 Rob Gonsalves