Erwin loved the cat that Niels had given him. Such a lovely cat. He would play records for his cat while he thought and studied deep into the night, and his cat would gently rub against his leg.
When Orpheus laid his eyes upon Eurydice, all else fell away. Though the nuptials were doomed, his fair lyre still sung out the most beauteous chords, so that even the Gods were said to stop and listen.
As Erwin sat at his desk, his eyes and mind became crowded with infinite possibilities. With all of the seemingly impossible theories, though belonging strictly to the realm of Science Fiction, nevertheless held up under the heaviest of tests. But how could he explain it? Even now he could hear the pounding on his door. They had come to take his precious ideas away. He stroked his cat silently and waited.
The shepherd Aristæus too, loved fair Eurydice, and sought to steal her away. One afternoon he pursued her, and Eurydice, not watching where she was running, stepped upon a snake which bit her foot; quickly seeping poison. When she died, her body was removed to the realm of the dead.
Erwin constructed an ingenious box to explain his theory. He sealed his one true friend, his cat, inside it so that it could not be seen. To the box, he affixed a device which had an equal, but random chance, of delivering either food or poison to the cat.
Orpheus descended into Tænarus and found himself in the Stygian realm. He played a song on his lyre so sad that the Gods wept, and Pluto himself allowed Orpheus to take Eurydice out of the realm of the dead on one condition; that the entire way back to the realm of light he could not look back to see if Eurydice was following him or she would be lost to him forever.
“The cat,” Erwin explained to Niels, motioning to the sealed box, “exists in a dual state right now. It is neither alive nor dead. It is, in fact, both alive and dead. Both possibilities. It is the Observer who changes things. The world of observation is a world of either/or. I cannot lose my cat this way. You see, Niels? I cannot lose my one friend this way.”
Niels glanced at the dark box, then back up to Erwin.
For days Orpheus walked through the lands of the dead, constantly fighting the urge to look back at his one true love. “Not until I see the light,” he told himself. But he could not hear her, could not even sense her presence, for Eurydice was in a state of superposition; but how could he accept that? If he could not see her, could not hear her, how could anyone accept that? She may be there, she may not. In point of fact, she was both.
Erwin, left alone in his room, stared at the thick, silent box. Tears welled in his eyes. He had to believe.
As Orpheus neared the light, he found he could not bear it any longer. Weeks had passed and yet there was no sign that Eurydice had even taken a single step. Nothing was granted him. He was convinced this was a cruel joke of the Gods. To make him leave their underworld, alone. With tears in his eyes, he glanced back. There stood Eurydice. Silent. Already turning to mist. The only one he had ever loved became emptiness as he reached out in vain to grab her fading form.
If the New Physics is a science of infinite, simultaneous possibilities; it was something Orpheus knew nothing of. In a moment of weakness he had dared to look.
Erwin Schrödinger, in his moment of weakness, chose not to.
(Originally published on November 21st, 2009)