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The EPR article highlighted the bizarre nature of quantum superpositions, in which a quantum system such as an atom or photon can exist as a combination of multiple states corresponding to different possible outcomes.The prevailing theory, called the Copenhagen interpretation, said that a quantum system remains in superposition until it interacts with, or it’s observed by the external world.Each alternative seemed absurd to Einstein, who was impressed by the ability of the thought experiment to highlight these issues.In a letter to Schrödinger dated 1950, he wrote: You are the only contemporary physicist, besides Laue, who sees that one cannot get around the assumption of reality, if only one is honest.Yet, when one looks in the box, one sees the cat either alive or dead not both alive and dead.
The scenario presents a cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead, a state known as a quantum superposition, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.
Schrödinger and Einstein exchanged letters about Einstein's EPR article, in the course of which Einstein pointed out that the state of an unstable keg of gunpowder will, after a while, contain a superposition of both exploded and unexploded states.
To further illustrate, Schrödinger described how one could, in principle, create a superposition in a large-scale system by making it dependent on a quantum particle that was in a superposition.
Intended as a critique of the Copenhagen interpretation (the prevailing orthodoxy in 1935), the Schrödinger's cat thought experiment remains a defining touchstone for modern interpretations of quantum mechanics.
Physicists often use the way each interpretation deals with Schrödinger's cat as a way of illustrating and comparing the particular features, strengths, and weaknesses of each interpretation.