Sunday, December 12, 2010

Schrodinger's Cat

Current Reading: Interesting Times, by Terry Pratchett

Inspirational Quote: "Let me outta here!" -- Schrodinger's Cat

For those of you unfamiliar with the theory, Schrodinger's Cat is the title of an absurd illustration of one of quantum mechanics more bizarre corollaries. Put a cat in a box with a vial of poison that will open if a radio-active atom decays. Choose your atom such that there's a 50% chance it will decay within an hour, then seal the box and wait an hour. During that time, the state of the cat is indeterminate. It can be said to be both alive and dead. The universe doesn't know.

Any prediction of the future here requires you to account for both possibilities.

At the end of the hour though, you may open the box and examine the cat. It is not the cat's state, but our observation of that state which causes probability to become certainty. Only when we look can we predict whether the cat's future contains a shovel or a bowl of kibble.

So let me introduce you to Shrodinger's Cat.

His name is Ash (that's his real name. I usually avoid real names here because I don't think it's fair to expose my family publicly without their consent. Ash, however, seems to have no objection. No matter how many times I explain the concept of the internet, all I get is the standard cat look of contempt mixed with the resignation that comes from realizing that without people there are no scratches behind the ears or bowls of food. I take his silence as consent). A week ago he started moping and acting out of character. I took him to our vet, who determined that something had caused his kidneys to stop working. His urea and creatinine (is that the right term?) were so far above normal they couldn't see it with a telescope. We figured that was it. Finito. Kaput. The fat kitty was meowing, and it was best to spare him (and us) further suffering. Penelope and I went to the vet's with every intention of seeing Ash to his final rest. Then Penelope looked into his face and said, "He's not ready to go yet."

He wasn't. They dosed him with intravenous fluids to the point where he either had to pee or dissolve, and he peed. The numbers came down into the normal range and we brought him home. He's been here for four days now, eating and drinking and moping a bit but still active and aware. I don't know if he's been peeing. Short of following him around, I don't know how I could find out. And even if I did follow him around, how many of us can pee when someone's watching?

Anyway, it's into the vet's again tomorrow for a blood test to see if how well his kidneys are functioning. There are three possible states: they're working well enough, they need medicinal assistance, or they're toast.

The future is indeterminate.

If Erwin Schrodinger were alive today, (and there is no probability of his continued existence: his death was observed, and therefore his current state is determined), I'd book a ticket to Vienna for the express purpose of giving him SUCH A KICK.

Tests show his creatinine is still a little high, but the rest indicates that his kidneys are functioning again. We take him back in a month to see if there's any change.
Nine lives indeed.


slcard said...

I'm so glad to learn your buddy survived. I hope he continues to do well. Creatinine is correct. May it stay in its proper range.

I know gray and white cats aren't rare -- in fact, Doc sees an Arthur twin once a year it seems -- but I found your photo of Ash so strikingly similar to my King Arthur, I had to make Arthur my profile picture. He doesn't like having his photo taken. He hates the flash. Hence the squint. But there he is. He sends his regards... says your wife is brilliant for knowing the look... and if you ever do get a chance to kick Schrodinger, kick him hard.

Ulysses said...

My wife is brilliant, yes. Her only intellectual stumble has been marrying beneath her. No matter.

We have another gray and white, Hannah, who causes visitors some confusion. They think we have only the one, who seems to move around the house at astonishing speed. The key to recognition is, of course, the patten, but it's taken even Cassandra six years to get that down pat.

maine character said...

All the best to Ash, who looks remarkably like my own cat, as well, but black and white.

He got sick suddenly and didn't come back from the vet, but one thing that made it easier is every week or so for the previous year I'd tell him how glad I was he found us and how much I cared for him. He gave me that same look back, like, "These humans are so sentimental," but at least I said it while I had the chance.

Ulysses said...

Well put, Maine. We are measured not by how big a space we occupy in the hearts of others, but by how big a space others occupy in our own hearts. We shouldn't let a day go by without letting them know how much they mean. This is, of course, as true of pets as of humans.

My wife believes quite firmly that if we're good in this life, we get to come back in the next as a house cat.