Schrodinger’s Nursery

11 Jan

I was shampooing a doll’s hair today.

It’s a long, unpleasant story involving a child with a hair-pulling habit, the sudden onset of illness, and a not-uncommon byproduct of illness.

Needless to say, a doll’s scalp feels nothing like a real human’s. And the hair is really hard to comb.

Since the hair’s bio-hazard safety level was in question, even after the shampooing, I used the missus’ brush to try to straighten out the hair. With little success. Even after drying off the hair with her towel.

As you may have guessed, the end results were far from pleasing to the eye. Are dolls supposed to have bald spots after a rigorous shampooing? Or look like they hitched a ride with Dorothy to Oz, on the outside of her house?

Neither rain, nor sleet, nor milk-curdled vomit will prevent me from having a bad hair day

Yes, the hair looks terrible. Still an improvement over what it looked like before I washed it.

Which brings me to the Schrödinger’s Nursery thought experiment.

No, not his famous cat, or his lesser know, Peanuts-inspired experiment involving a cat sealed inside Schroeder’s Piano along with a musically diabolical mechanism.

(Although who secretly hasn’t wanted to use poison gas on Schroeder?)

I’m talking about the fiend’s nursery.

You see, the recent illness of my spawn highlighted an issue all parents, or at least loving, responsible ones, face:

If I can’t see my child, he or she might be dead. Or worse, dying.

This is particularly infuriating when you wake up at 2am and can’t hear them in the nursery. Here’s the conundrum in a nutshell:

They might be alive. In all likelihood, they are alive. But because you can’t observe them, in your terrified imagination they exist in both the alive and dead state, leaning towards dead, until you drag your exhausted ass out of bed, crack open the nursery door, and, once your eyes have dark-adapted, see that they’re OK.

And in the process of checking on them, three things will happen.

  • You will confirm that, thankfully, they are indeed alive, although this also means you could have stayed warm and cozy in your bed.
  • They are now awake, which means you will not be returning to that warm and cozy bed any time soon.
  • This is when you discover you’re out of milk.

Ah, says the clever reader. I have a simple enough solution. Just don’t check on them. If they’re alive, hooray, and if they’re dead, well, not much you can do about it anyway, so why lose sleep over it?

While superficially callous, there is an apparent logic to this statement. Until you realize, as I have already hinted, that Schrödinger’s Nursery postulates the children are in not two, but three possible states: alive, dead, and dying.

OK, technically, it’s four states: alive, living, dead, dying – the alive / living thing seems redundant to me, but I don’t claim to understand quantum physics, and really didn’t want to muddle the issue here. Happy?

It’s that dying state that’s the rub – if you check on them and find them in the dying state, you can still save them, and when you realize that, you drag your sorry ass out of bed and check.

So here is a typical night for me:

Wake up with thought that my spawn are most likely alive, but might, just might, be dead or dying.
I hear nothing from their room.
I hear nothing but snores from the missus, blissfully unaware of the potential doom of her offspring.
I clear my throat.
The missus doesn’t stir. The nursery is still silent.
I toss and turn.
The missus doesn’t stir. The nursery is still silent.
I kick the missus, jarring her awake, and immediately feign deep sleep myself.
Now awake, the Curse of Schrödinger’s Nursery takes hold of the missus’ psyche.
She stirs, wrestling with irrational fear and a sudden need to check on the most likely alive children in the nursery. I suppress a chuckle and mentally pat myself on the back for my ingenuity.
I feel the missus’ hand on my shoulder, jostling me. “Honey, check on the boys.”
I cry silently as I peek inside the nursery. The children are fine. Cherubic faces greet my dark-adapted eyes, and gentle baby snores reach my ears. I close the door with a click.
A baby begins to cry.

This is why Quantum Physics should not be taught in our schools.

And since the missus sometimes reads this blog to make sure I’m not hitting on chicks, I feel obligated to point out that I’m just kidding about using her hair brush and towel. I’d never do that to you, Sweetie.

And now, a word from our sponsor: me!

My book, Marlowe and the Spacewoman, is out!

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1 Comment

Posted by on 11 January 2012 in Angst


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One response to “Schrodinger’s Nursery

  1. Erica

    11 January 2012 at 8:01 pm

    You know they make doll hair shampoo and combs? 😀 Evil marketing geniuses!!!


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