Photographic Thought Experiments


Scientists and Philosophers love to come up with crazy stories called ‘Thought Experiments’ to illustrate their theories. Thought Experiments are a great way of demonstrating specific problems and they encourage people to come up with creative solutions to them. And because us Lomographers love to experiment with new ideas too, we thought it would be fun to put a photographic twist on two famous thought experiments!

Credits: trampoline

Schrödinger’s Photo

Imagine that a cat called Schrödinger is sealed in a steel container. Also imagine that in the container there is an Instant camera which is attached to a Geiger counter – In the Geiger counter there is a tiny amount of radioactive substance, such a small amount that there is a chance that the substance will decay during the course of an hour but there is an exactly equal chance that it won’t. Further imagine that if the substance does decay, the shutter on the camera will be released and an Instant photo of Schrödinger will be produced. If the substance doesn’t decay, the camera will remain unused.

The problem with the story is that Quantum mechanics has proven that particles can be in two different ‘states’ at the same time. And because there is a 50/50 chance of the atomic substance decaying and not decaying, it’s possible to say that the substance is in both states at the same time. But, if this is the case, then it follows that there both is an instant photo of Schrödinger and that there isn’t an instant photo, at the same time!

Read the original Thought Experiment (Schrödinger’s Cat) here.

Remember, this is a Thought-Experiment!! Do not try it at home!!!

The Camera of Theseus

Imagine that a photographer called Theseus buys an LC-A camera. Theseus loves making little changes and modifications to the camera. To begin with, he just replaces a single screw. But as time passes, Theseus continues to make more additions and bigger alterations to the camera – he adds a new back, changes the entire mechanism and replaces every screw. After a few years of these changes, the camera is completely unrecognizable.

Credits: stucampbell

This thought experiment questions the nature of identity. After Theseus has made all his changes, is the camera still his LC-A, or has it become something completely new and different? And if the camera has become something new, at what exact point did it change from being “Theseus’ LC-A” into being “Theseus’ new camera”? Was it after he replaced the 20th screw? Or after he replaced the camera back? Or after he replaced the mechanism? Is it even possible to say an exact point at which the camera changes from being one thing into another?

Read the original Thought Experiment (The Ship of Theseus) here.

Want to learn more about the analogue future? Head to the Microsite, take part in our Shoot Your Prophecy Competition and download the Future is Analogue posters!

written by tomas_bates on 2011-03-11 #lifestyle #analogue #experiment #future #prophecies #thoughtexperiment


  1. basho
    basho ·

    Why should anyone want to hurt a cat even in thought? Isn't that a bit cruel? Why not try the experiment with an inanimated object? Or with a scientist or a philosopher instead?

  2. tomas_bates
    tomas_bates ·

    @basho - Yes, the thought experiment is a little weird isn't it ;-) I don't know why Schrodinger came up with the idea of a cat in a box for his experiment - It illustrates his scientific theory but maybe he could have done it without thinking of a cat being killed!

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