The Heisenberg Warranty

On 30 April, 2007, in Random Thoughts, by C. Scott Davis

I recently read this on a packet of adhesive bandages:

Guaranteed sterile unless opened.

I always found this funny (since it’s impossible to verify the guarantee without invalidating it), but for some reason this time, I was struck by the thought of a similar notice being posted on the box containing Schrödinger’s cat1

Cat guaranteed alive unless box is opened.

Of course, the whole point of the exercise is that the state of the cat2 can not be determined until the box is opened, so it can’t really be said to be “alive” at that point (although, technically, it isn’t “dead” either).

So, as guarantees go, it’s pretty meaningless, but then again, so is the one on the bandages.

I think there was a point to all of this when I started, but I seem to have lost it somewhere along the way… except maybe for the bit about not using a live cat3.


1 Warning: Schrödinger’s cat is just a thought experiment, and should never, ever, under any circumstances, be attempted with a real cat.
2 I can not stress enough how important it is that you not try this with an actual cat.
3 Seriously… Trust me on this.

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