In fear of Schrödinger's zombie cat
|OFFWORLD - OTHER|
Cat want braaaiinnnnsss.....
There's no work of Stephen King's that gave me more enduring nightmares than his 1983 zombie novel 'Pet Sematary', in which a Chicago doctor moves to an area of Maine that's near a MicMac native American burial ground with the power to revive (i.e. zombify) whatever is buried in it. And the first thing that gets buried in it is the Doctor's family cat, run over in a road accident, in order to avoid a nasty scene with his kids (a topic thematically revisited in Roger Spottiswoode's SF actioner The 6th Day in 2000).
A dead cat, walking around, stinking up the place. Brrr.
Of course, 'Pet Sematary' gets worse than that in terms of hard chills - some of which even survive the patchy Mary Lambert 1989 adaptation. I was just thinking recently that it's interesting that King chose a cat to be the first demonstrable example of the power of the MicMac soil, since a theoretically 'half-dead' cat is enshrined at the heart of one of the most famous thought-experiments to break out of Quantum mechanics - the intellectual dichotomy of Schrödinger's cat.
The short version:
...A cat, along with a flask containing a poison and a radioactive source, is placed in a sealed box. If an internal Geiger counter detects radiation, the flask is shattered, releasing the poison that kills the cat. The Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implies that after a while, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Yet, when we look in the box, we see the cat either alive or dead, not both alive and dead.
Schrödinger's cat is a Quantum physics paradox, and really a mere thought-experiment designed to inspire more productive and practical results. But in terms of science, it is arguably the nearest thing we have to an 'actual' theoretical zombie. This, in spite of the fact that the entire experiment is based on a binary result: either the cat's alive or it's dead - you're not going to know until you open the box.
This is horrific stuff in itself - this is Bluebeard's door, the melting door in The Exorcist (1973) - every scary door from 100+ years of genre cinema that you're not supposed to go near, but are required to by the impelling anti-logic of horror movies.
But on another level, it poses the question: What would happen if you opened the door between the two potential states, interrupting the binary nature of the result? What if you could open the door quickly enough to neither find one result nor the other? Is the Schrödinger's cat paradox about you and your understanding of reality, or is it about the cat and its current state?
If it's the latter, we're talking a third option - zombie cats!
All this, I suppose, to express my disappointment that zombies don't stand up to even the mildest scientific scrutiny, compared to stable-mates such as vampires (which have at least a little basis in science as well as folklore, as regards Porphyria and the non-fictional vampire bat species Desmodus rotundus, Diphylla ecaudata and Diaemus youngi). Frankly, zombies are even behind werewolves in terms of credibility and hard evidence. Without metabolism, there can't be autonomous movement in anything classified as 'mammal'. And metabolism is deeply tied into cell maintenance and regeneration, making zombies among the most lyrical of horror's bogey-people.
But, as Brad Pitt once asked so chillingly in Se7en (1993), aren't you curious to know 'What's in the box'...?
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