Two-state cat.

Enlarge / Two-state cat. (credit: RBerteig on Flickr)

One thing I dislike about quantum mechanics is that it encourages journalists to overuse words like “mysterious” and “spooky.” Given that we can model quantum systems to an accuracy that would make a god cry, where is the mystery?

I personally blame Schrödinger and his eponymous cat. That thought experiment, combined with an ever-increasing body of experimental results, shows just how subtle quantum mechanics is. Rather than admitting a lack of understanding, some journalists seem to use Schrödinger’s cat as a get-out-of-explaining-for-free card.

No doubt the words “mysterious” and “spooky” are going to turn up again regarding an experiment that, according to its press release, shows how to predict when Schrödinger’s cat is about to die. The experiment is really only tangentially related to Schrödinger’s cat; instead, it shows how no matter how well you understand quantum mechanics, there is always another layer to peel back and explore.

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