'Quantum humour' beams back after absence


AN ORIGINAL manuscript written in Dublin by Nobel Prize- winning physicist Erwin Schrödinger has resurfaced after almost 60 years.

The short manuscript was prepared in 1955 for publication in the King’s Hospital school magazine. The five-page manuscript reveals an unexpectedly humorous side to the Austrian-born scientist, who also held Irish citizenship.

Schrödinger is viewed as one of the fathers of quantum mechanics. For the general public he is perhaps better known for his attempt to explain his theories using “Schrödinger’s Cat”, a cat that can be both alive and dead at the same time.

His willingness to write for the school’s magazine, Blue Coat, arose because of his friendship with a teacher at King’s Hospital, Ronnie Anderson, said the school’s headmaster Michael Hall.

Schrödinger published his manuscript in the December 1955 edition of Blue Coat, writing it in the form of a dialogue involving three speakers, said Trinity College Dublin’s Prof Jonathan Coleman, who now owns the typescript.

Oddly, while Schrödinger was writing about the start of quantum mechanics in the early 1900s, his speakers were from the 16th century and a time when none of the ideas would have made any sense. The character Salviati attempts to explain the oddities associated with quantum mechanics, while Simplicio refuses to believe that such things could possibly be true.

Ronnie Anderson kept the original typescript for some years before giving it to a young physics teacher who had joined the school, David Clarke, Mr Hall said. He in turn held on to it for several more decades before inviting a past pupil, Prof Coleman, to judge a science competition.

“I went to King’s Hospital and was invited to come back and talk to the kids,” he said. “At the end of the day he [Clarke] gave me the document.” Prof Coleman is now considering what to do with the typescript. “It had been sitting on a shelf for 40 years and before that, sitting on another shelf for 20 years,” he said.

The text of Schrödinger’s manuscript is now available at the kingshospital.iewebsite.