Schrodinger’s Coffee

Father likes coffee.

I should rephrase that.

Father needs coffee to sustain life.

Ok, that’s better.

Father loves his electric percolator, but has complained that lately it doesn’t seem to be getting the coffee as hot. Not being someone who likes a blistered tongue, I hadn’t noticed anything odd. Maybe I did notice that I didn’t have to wait half an hour before actually drinking it.

This morning I made the coffee and as it was finishing, I asked him which mug he wanted. (This is another thing. He’s been looking for the perfect mug since I’ve known him. I’ve learned a lot about mugs.) He started talking about how this particular mug was thick and would hold the heat in, but didn’t hold much coffee so the temperature dropped significantly just warming the mug, etc. I suggested he fill a mug with hot water and let it sit while the coffee brewed (a la teapot). He did so and I went ahead and poured mine.

Just for kicks, I got the candy thermometer out and stuck in in my coffee to see what temperature it actually was. Father objected, saying that just the act of sticking the thermometer in it would cool the coffee off. I told him it was Schrodinger’s Coffee.* We liked that, and noticed that Schrodinger’s coffee was only 148 degrees and dropping. Father’s coffee, on the other hand, was 164 degrees. Then he added creamer and started checking again. I had already lost interest and was leaving the kitchen. I’m not sure whether a new percolator or THE PERFECT MUG would be a better Christmas present. I do have a feeling that a book on quantum mechanics would miss the mark. Meanwhile, Schrodinger and I are enjoying our lukewarm coffee.

*From Schrodinger’s Cat, a thought experiment in quantum mechanics. Say you have a closed box containing a cat (Sorry, cat-lovers). In one end of the box you have a radioactive particle that has a 50/50 chance of decaying within a certain amount of time. If it decays, it sets off a mechanism that kills the cat. What is the state of the cat in the box? Alive or dead? The cat is both. If you, however, open the box, then you immediately decide which side of the grave the cat is on.** Thus, the very act of measuring something influences the result (which particularly applies to subatomic particles). Another easy way to think of this is a cop checking for speeding. If he’s sitting out there in the median, people see him and automatically slow down. Just the very act of checking speed slows the cars down which, you might say, is kind of the point.

**Yes, even Schrodinger thought this was absurd.

5 thoughts on “Schrodinger’s Coffee

  1. OK, first, I am totally with your hubby in all aspects of coffee in this post. We brew via coffee press for that reason!

    Second, I know exactly what you're talking about with the cat-business. For some reason, my Dad relates that story about once a month. I love “Schrodinger's coffee” though. 🙂


  2. Just wanted to add to this discussion by saying that I got three of those nifty, thick white classic mugs on ebay for a really low price. They were significant to me because growing up I remember my grandfather having coffee in mugs like that practically every time I came to his house. If he wasn't out in his shed making fishing lures, he was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, smoking a cigarette. May his memory be eternal!


  3. Love this! too funny… I don't drink coffee (one of my eccentricities) but I have a small French press from IKEA for coffee for guests… keep the coffee grinds frozen for freshness… 🙂

    let us know when the perfect mug is found!


Leave a Reply to elizabeth Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s