• Morgan Fagg

Schrödinger's Irish

Updated: May 2

Depending on how you read the title you might be inclinded to see it that Schrödinger is Irish or that I am talking about his Irish. His Irish could be his people or his command of the language. I presume of course that he didn't speak much Irish but a more universal language that lead him to a life in Ireland.

He is best known for his theory Schrödinger's Cat which imagines that a cat is both dead and alive at the same time under a particular set of circumstances where the cat is in a box with a leathal poison in a glass vial that we can presume has both broken and killed the cat but the animal is deemed both alive and dead until observed by somebody as nobody knows.

There is no actual cat for people to worry about even though science is full of examples of testing on animals and orphans which we would consider completely unethical today.

At the same time I was learning of Schrödinger's Cat in Behavioural Science class, I was also learning of Pavlov's Dog where Ivan Pavlov demonstrated that a dog would salivate at the sound of a bell if the dog was regularly fed food at the same time that a bell was rung.

What most people probably dont know is that one of Pavlov's students actually tested the same experiment on orphans but most people gloss over this fact when talking about Classic Conditioning.

The Nazis experimented on people and some of them experimented on twins but Schrödinger didnt agree with the Nazis which made his life in Austria a little harder after Austria was annexed by Germany in 1938. He apparently tried to downplay his opposition to the Nazis only to find himself having to apologise to Albert Einstein.

Schrödinger was invited to Ireland by An Taoiseach Eamon de Velera because they spoke the same language, maths, and Schrödinger spent time teaching in Ireland.

However you imagine Schrödinger, I like to think that he was Irish and could be thrusted with a cat, and that Ireland will be a scientific home for many others in the future regardless of where they originally come from.

Schrödinger was both Irish and Austrian, born in Vienna in 1887 but becoming an Irish citizen in 1948 before later returning to Vienna where he died in 1961.

Whereever you are on Saint Patricks Day, lets remember that not everyone is lucky enough to be born into a safe stable environment and many children around the world might be living in a state that could only be considered life or death when observed from the outside.

I believe that Ireland should welcome more scientists like Schrödinger to the island and while not every emigrant is an Albert Einstein, every Albert Einstein was an immigrant.

Saint Patrick's Day should be a time to mention human trafficking, piracy and emmigration, I hate to rain on your parade, I've mentioned enough cats and dogs but what wonderful scientific discoveries lie ahead of us when think both inside and outside of the box?

As an emigrant, I might be biased in my opinon but as I said, there are children who are living in a state of life or death circumstances that go unobserved, and even when it comes to a celebrity and a royal, I am reminded of a story of the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle who faced a dilema as a young child when asked to tick a box in a cenus form as either Black, Caucausian, Hispanic or Asian.

The actress described the situation in an article in Elle magazine in 2015 where she couldn't answer the rigid racial question and left it blank instead. You can read her account below but I guess what I am really trying to say is, regardless of where you are from on Saint Patrick's Day,

Luck out for others and don't be so quick to put people in a box.

There was a mandatory census I had to complete in my English class – you had to check one of the boxes to indicate your ethnicity: white, black, Hispanic or Asian. There I was (my curly hair, my freckled face, my pale skin, my mixed race) looking down at these boxes, not wanting to mess up, but not knowing what to do. You could only choose one, but that would be to choose one parent over the other – and one half of myself over the other. My teacher told me to check the box for Caucasian. 'Because that's how you look, Meghan,' she said. I put down my pen. Not as an act of defiance, but rather a symptom of my confusion. I couldn't bring myself to do that, to picture the pit-in-her-belly sadness my mother would feel if she were to find out. So, I didn't tick a box. I left my identity blank – a question mark, an absolute incomplete – much like how I felt.

When I went home that night, I told my dad what had happened. He said the words that have always stayed with me: "If that happens again, you draw your own box."

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