Erwin Schrödinger

Discussion in 'History' started by Saturnine Pariah, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. Saturnine Pariah Hell is other people Valued Senior Member

    Today marks Erwin Schrodinger's 126th birthday.

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    Erwin Schrödinger was born on August 12, 1887, in Vienna, the only child of Rudolf Schrödinger, who was married to a daughter of Alexander Bauer, his Professor of Chemistry at the Technical College of Vienna. From 1906 to 1910 he was a student at the University of Vienna, during which time he came under the strong influence of Fritz Hasenöhrl, who was Boltzmann's successor. It was in these years that Schrödinger acquired a mastery of eigenvalue problems in the physics of continuous media, thus laying the foundation for his future great work. Hereafter, as assistant to Franz Exner, he, together with his friend K. W. F. Kohlrausch, conducted practical work for students (without himself, as he said, learning what experimenting was). During the First World War he served as an artillery officer.

    In 1920 he took up an academic position as assistant to Max Wien, followed by positions at Stuttgart (extraordinary professor), Breslau (ordinary professor), and at the University of Zurich (replacing von Laue) where he settled for six years. In later years Schrödinger looked back to his Zurich period with great pleasure - it was here that he enjoyed so much the contact and friendship of many of his colleagues, among whom were Hermann Weyl and Peter Debye. It was also his most fruitful period, being actively engaged in a variety of subjects of theoretical physics. His papers at that time dealt with specific heats of solids, with problems of thermodynamics (he was greatly interested in Boltzmann's probability theory) and of atomic spectra; in addition, he indulged in physiological studies of colour (as a result of his contacts with Kohlrausch and Exner, and of Helmholtz's lectures). His great discovery, Schrödinger's wave equation, was made at the end of this epoch-during the first half of 1926.

    It came as a result of his dissatisfaction with the quantum condition in Bohr's orbit theory and his belief that atomic spectra should really be determined by some kind of eigenvalue problem. For this work he shared with Dirac the Nobel Prize for 1933.

    In 1927 Schrödinger moved to Berlin as Planck's successor. Germany's capital was then a centre of great scientific activity and he enthusiastically took part in the weekly colloquies among colleagues, many of whom "exceeding him in age and reputation". With Hitler's coming to power (1933), however, Schrödinger decided he could not continue in Germany. He came to England and for a while held a fellowship at Oxford. In 1934 he was invited to lecture at Princeton University and was offered a permanent position there, but did not accept. In 1936 he was offered a position at University of Graz, which he accepted only after much deliberation and because his longing for his native country outweighed his caution. With the annexation of Austria in 1938, he was immediately in difficulty because his leaving Germany in 1933 was taken to be an unfriendly act. Soon afterwards he managed to escape to Italy, from where he proceeded to Oxford and then to University of Ghent. After a short stay he moved to the newly created Institute for Advanced Studies in Dublin, where he became Director of the School for Theoretical Physics. He remained in Dublin until his retirement in 1955.

    All this time Schrödinger continued his research and published many papers on a variety of topics, including the problem of unifying gravitation and electromagnetism, which also absorbed Einstein and which is still unsolved; (he was also the author of the well-known little book "What is Life?", 1944). He remained greatly interested in the foundations of atomic physics. Schrödinger disliked the generally accepted dual description in terms of waves and particles, with a statistical interpretation for the waves, and tried to set up a theory in terms of waves only. This led him into controversy with other leading physicists.

    After his retirement he returned to an honoured position in Vienna. He died on the 4th of January, 1961, after a long illness, survived by his faithful companion, Annemarie Bertel, whom he married in 1920.

    From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1922-1941, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1965

    This autobiography/biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures.
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  3. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    Hey!!! What about his cat?
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  5. Mazulu Banned Banned

    it's dead...or alive, it's hard to predict.
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  7. quantum_wave Contemplating the "as yet" unknown Valued Senior Member

    Or is it there at all :shrug

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  8. Mazulu Banned Banned

    It's all waves, man, it's all waves. Let's go surfing, dude, in the ocean of quantum physics.
  9. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Lol .. then so is Schrodinger .. according to his own theory.
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    No. In his case the box has been opened, "collapsing" the statefunction by revealing him to be most definitely dead.
  11. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    I think killing moggies is just so cruel! We have to re-write thoose silly equations so the moggie is always alive - that's state 1 not state 0, right? Or is it the other way round? This stuff is just so confusing.
  12. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Who collapsed the openers statefunction ?
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    The midwife?
  14. quantum_wave Contemplating the "as yet" unknown Valued Senior Member

    Yes, but before that, it all goes back to the initial singularity super superposition!
  15. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    And hers ?
  16. Sorcerer Put a Spell on you Registered Senior Member

    It was that damn cat! It's got nine lives, sorry, states.
  17. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    So the question remains. Who / what collapsed Schrödinger's statefunction ?
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member


    The story of Schroedinger's cat (an epic poem)

    May 7, 1982
    Dear Cecil:

    Cecil, you're my final hope
    Of finding out the true Straight Dope
    For I have been reading of Schroedinger's cat
    But none of my cats are at all like that.
    This unusual animal (so it is said)
    Is simultaneously live and dead!
    What I don't understand is just why he
    Can't be one or other, unquestionably.
    My future now hangs in between eigenstates.
    In one I'm enlightened, the other I ain't.
    If you understand, Cecil, then show me the way
    And rescue my psyche from quantum decay.
    But if this queer thing has perplexed even you,
    Then I will and won't see you in Schroedinger's zoo.

    — Randy F., Chicago

    Cecil replies:

    Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
    Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
    (Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
    Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
    Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
    By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
    What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
    No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
    Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
    Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
    If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
    Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
    No sweat, though — my theory permits us to judge
    Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
    Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
    The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
    E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
    To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
    Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
    And inside a tube we have put that cat at —
    Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
    A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
    (Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
    One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
    Or atom — whatever — but when it emits,
    A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
    Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
    Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.
    The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
    Our pussy still purring — or pushing up daisies?
    Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
    But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
    Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
    Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
    To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
    But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough shit.
    We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
    There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
    Shine light on electrons — you'll cause them to swerve.
    The act of observing disturbs the observed —
    Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
    To see if a particle's moving or resting
    Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
    We know probability — certainty, never.'
    The effect of this notion? I very much fear
    'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
    Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
    "We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
    So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
    God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
    I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried —
    In vain — until fin'ly he more or less died.
    Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
    Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
    Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
    Ten-to-one he's in heaven — but five bucks says he ain't."

    — Cecil Adams
  19. Lakon Valued Senior Member

    Very cool !

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