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1. Classical physics doesn’t work when particles get small enough. So we have quantum mechanics, which can predict the probable behaviour of very small particles, but completely fails to describe why they act in the way they do. One famous attempt at a partial explanation is the Copenhagen Interpretation. This mathematical model suggests that a quantum particle exists in all possible states, but only until it is observed. At that point the probability “waveform” collapses into a specific but unpredictable value. Erwin Schrödinger wanted to prove that the model was ridiculous, and could never describe physical reality. He imagined the decay of a radioactive particle indirectly killing a cat, in a sealed box. With no one to observe the decay, it cannot assume any possible states – it cannot happen or not happen. The cat is both alive and dead. Einstein admired Schrödinger’s loyalty to “the assumption of reality.”
2. If you can read this, then you are alive. Interpreted correctly, the voids account for half of the reading experience. Why not use this time to contemplate the inevitability of death?
Illustrator: Shing Yin Khor is a cranky Hufflepuff, and also an illustrator, writer and sculptor. You can follow her on Twitter. Her previous work for The Toast can be found here.
Helen lives in the UK, where she works in science media and wastes too much time online. She has a degree in the history of science.