Erwin Schrödinger was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian theoretical physicist. He is most famous for his iconic thought experiment, ‘Schrödinger’s Cat’, and for his wave equation which can be used to find the energy levels of quantum mechanical systems.
Schrödinger was born in Vienna, Austria on August 12, 1887. His father was Austrian and his mother was half English so he grew up speaking both German and English at home.
Schrödinger’s most important work was creating a mathematical method that correctly described the energy levels in the Bohr atomic model. Bohr’s theory worked well for hydrogen atoms, but didn’t work so well for more complicated atoms. His groundbreaking wave equation described the movement of electrons by treating them as both particles and waves. It allowed scientists to calculate the energy levels of electrons in more complicated atoms. The wave equation is not the only way to make predictions about quantum mechanical systems, Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics and Feynman’s path integral formulation can also be used.n 1933 Schrödinger Schrödinger won a Nobel Prize for Physics with Paul Dirac for “the discovery of new productive forms of atomic theory”.
In 1935 Schrödinger created a thought experiment known as Schrödinger’s cat. He wrote about it as a discussion point around an article written by Albert Einstein, Boris Podolsky, and Nathan Rosen. This experiment demonstrates a paradox of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. In the experiment a cat is sealed in a metal box. Inside the box is a small amount of radioactive material, an amount so small that in an hour perhaps one atom decays, but with an equal probability that one atom doesn’t decay. Next to this radioactive source is a Geiger counter (a machine used to detect radioactive decay). The Geiger counter is set up so that if it detects a decay a hammer will smash a flask of hydrocyanic acid, which would kill the cat. Schrödinger put forward the idea that after a while the box remains closed, the cat is both dead and alive. It isn’t until we open the box and we observe whether the cat is either alive or dead.
He later became director of the Institute of Advanced study in Dublin and stayed there until he retired in 1956. He then moved back to Vienna. He died aged 73 on January 4, 1961.
“The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself and upon other scientists.”
“If a man never contradicts himself, the reason must be that he virtually never says anything at all.”
“Consciousness cannot be accounted for in physical terms. For consciousness is absolutely fundamental. It cannot be accounted for in terms of anything else.”
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