Here is the final installment of the Feline Blue series. Part 1 and Part 2 have set up the problem and suggested a solution. Part 3 merely finishes out the story. I would like to thank the person from whom I stole this blue cat image. I would, indeed, thank them directly if I had any idea who they were.
May all of your cats remain the color of their choice.
Feline Blue – Part 3 of 3
Finally, the day of the great experiment came along. The first and most difficult chore was getting the cat into the cat carrier.
Voldemort was an indoor cat, and when he saw that green carrier with the cage in the front, he knew that something was about to happen that he wouldn’t like at all.
So he hid. He has a LOT of hiding places, and he’s smart enough to create a new one the moment we find one of his old ones.
But the point is we always find him. Every time. He has never once failed to get into that carrier once we determined to put him into it. So, why does he keep trying?
I wore a leather coat and gloves. The last time I tried to put him into the carrier he managed to draw blood–quite a feat for an animal without any claws.
We found him behind a fish tank that hadn’t had any fish in it for the past five years. The tank had a cupboard underneath it, and the cupboard didn’t have a backing. To Voldemort, this looked like a perfect hiding spot. To us, this made it easier than usual. All we had to do was open the cupboard doors and nab him. He was so surprised that those doors actually opened that he didn’t think quickly enough to try to run away again.
Getting him into the carrier was a different matter. He had a tail and what seemed like about eight paws that combined forces to keep himself from getting in there. Sally and I likewise combined forces against him. While he hissed and yowled, I held the dangerous end with the teeth, and she stuffed in the tail and the hind legs. He went in easily after that–the front legs alone just didn’t have the movement or the strength to stop the inevitable.
So we lugged the black box contraption, the obligatory three-panel storyboard, and the cat out to the van, respectively. We remembered the Kool-Aid at the last minute. Bubba had said earlier that he wanted to see how everything was going to work, but he said that he’d meet us there.
The school administration decided to hold the Science Fair in the school cafeteria this year. Apparently, a particularly enthusiastic volcano had flowed its simulated molten contents all over the gymnasium floor last year and the gym teacher threw a fit. It was decided that the floor of the school cafeteria was far better suited for dealing with unidentifiable and possibly toxic substances.
Once we got to the school, we pulled out the black box contraption, the obligatory three-panel storyboard, the Kool-Aid, and the cat. We found our table, set up our display and then had to tackle the job of getting the cat OUT of the carrier. Voldy had apparently decided that, as much as he hated the carrier, at least it was something familiar to him. There were a lot of strange sounds and the smell of volcanic sulfur was in the air, and Voldy had decided that maybe the carrier wasn’t such a bad place after all.
Gravity ultimately won. We took the carrier and turned it sideways over the black box. We shook it a little, and Voldy, having no claws to speak of and not a lot to hold on to, eventually slid out with an ungraceful thump.
The black box was also a safe place that Voldy was familiar with, but he hadn’t liked a thing that had happened to him in the last half hour, and I don’t think he liked the idea of being locked up again. He looked up at us with pleading eyes and gave out a plaintive, “mew,” deciding on a far more passive tactic then any he had ever tried before. I felt my scar ache, and quickly slammed the lid down over him, suppressing the urge to laugh diabolically after I did so.
Once we had everything set up, I looked around and started to feel a little worried. Everyone else’s experiments we colorful. Ours was a misshapen black box. The box didn’t even have any exciting projections or knobs to twist and turn, just a single hole. All the exciting mechanisms were inside, hidden from view.
Just before the judging was to begin, Bubba showed up. Someone was with him.
“This is Dr. John Mazur, from South Indiana State University,” he explained. “He used to be my physics instructor there. I never went for my doctorate, of course, but he also teaches in the doctoral physics program.”
I gazed at him with a look of dumb incredulity.
“Hello,” he said, tipping his cap. “How are you?”
“I’m Evan,” I replied. “Bubba, can I have a word with you?”
I grabbed Bubba by his arm without waiting for an answer and walked out of earshot of the scientist.
“Bubba, what the hell is he doing here?”
“I invited him. I told him about the black box problem and he got interested.”
“But this is just a fifth grade science fair experiment. We’re just going to dump Kool-Aid on a cat. And that’s only if we’re lucky.”
“Look, he’s here. He’s quiet. He doesn’t eat much. What the hell is your problem?”
I stopped. I felt a rock in the pit of my stomach.
“I don’t know. It’s just the quantum physics part of it. I don’t like the idea of going against a bunch of PhDs and trying to prove that they’re all wrong because of a guy in blue tights and a cape.”
“Just relax, will you? Sally hasn’t proved anything. And even if she did, it wasn’t something that everyone else hasn’t already suspected. All she’s done is maybe come up with a new angle on it. Now come on, it looks like the judging is starting.”
# # # #
After going back and greeting Dr. Mazur more humanly, we watched the other experiments in action. They weren’t all volcanoes, of course. In reality, there were only two volcanoes in the whole room. There was one experiment where a student had turned a plant on its side to make it grow upwards. There was another one that used a prism and a flashlight.
One of the more interesting experiments tested the effects of coffee on teeth. The kid used six real teeth (his dad was a dentist). He placed two in regular coffee, two in decaf, and two in water as a control. The result could have been used as an advertisement for one of those toothpastes with, “extra whitening.” It also could have been effectively used by the anti-coffee lobby, should anyone choose to form one.
When the judges got to us, Sally went into her spiel. The judges, who were in fact just all of the fifth grade teachers in the school, seemed a little mystified by the whole thing. I doubted that most elementary school teachers delved too deeply into quantum physics as they earned their education degrees.
Sally explained the concept pretty well though, and the teachers seemed to know what she was talking about when she finished her preliminary presentation.
With a dramatic pause, Sally dropped the ball bearing into the tube.
Nothing happened, which was exactly what was supposed to happen.
Sally turned back to her audience, and was about to talk some more when suddenly, a muffled yowl emitted from the box. The box abruptly jumped almost an inch to the left, and a hissing sound (also distinctly muffled) could be heard.
The audience laughed. Little Sally looked mortified and ready to burst into tears. But then she shook herself, took one big sniffle, and boldly went on.
“The effect described in the Schrödinger’s Cat experiment can not happen in reality, because it is impossible to build a black box for real.”
Sally turned to look at us with venom in her eyes. “Although I think my dad and Mr. Bubba could have done a little better job than this.” The audience again laughed.
She looked again at the judges. “Anyway, the cat is not in a state of quantum flux, because if an alien existed who could see into the box, they would always be able to tell if the cat were blue or not without opening it.”
Then, she suddenly smiled. “In fact, in this case we don’t even need an alien. We know that the cat is blue because, even though we cannot see him, we heard him when the Kool-Aid was poured on him. Our sense of hearing tells us that the cat is blue, even though we can’t see it. We could also guess the cat’s color when the black box moved, and I think that just comes from our sense of knowing that cats don’t like having Kool-Aid poured on them.”
The audience laughed appreciably and applauded.
The physicist from the university did not applaud, but he smiled at her and nodded.
Sally opened the front of the box, and we could indeed see a blue cat–a very angry and scared looking blue cat–staring back at us from behind the cage. We closed the box again to let the cat suffer in peace.
When all of the teachers and parents moved on to mold experiment at the next table, I approached the physics professor.
“So, Dr. Mazur, what do you think of Sally’s interpretation of quantum theory?”
Still smiling, Dr. Mazur shrugged. “I don’t know. I really don’t have the math for it.”
I closed my eyes, exasperated.
“But,” the scientist continued, “I think the kid may have a point.”
Dr. Mazur tipped his cap at me, then at Bubba. With Sally, he removed his cap entirely and bowed to her. He then turned on his heals and walked from the room.
# # # #
We managed to get the now blue and white cat out of the box and home again with a minimum of bloodshed. Sally got an A on the project, with several positive comments that proved conclusively that her teacher didn’t really have a clue as to what the experiment was at all about.
Harvard University failed to call us to tell us that Sally’s experiment had set the world of quantum physics on its ear. I never heard from Dr. Mazur again. So life went back to almost normal in our humble abode.
I say almost, because we also leaned that blue Kool-Aid acts as an excellent hair die, and Voldy went around stained for several months before he managed to lick all the blue hairs off and upchuck them in blue hairballs for me to step in.
Damn, I hate that cat.