The "Schrödinger Moment": A Midterm Story
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The "Schrödinger Moment": A Midterm Story

What's in the box?!

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The "Schrödinger Moment": A Midterm Story
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It is not difficult to understand why people freak out about midterms. One wrong answer on a test that is worth upwards of 25 percent of your grade can effectively erase weeks of studying, turning in pointless homework assignments, and making sure that you talk at least once during your section (damn that participation grade!). Not only is the impact that midterms can have on your grade daunting, but also there is an equally daunting moment in the whole test-taking process that I like to call the “Schrödinger moment."

“Who is Schrödinger?” Well, I’m glad you asked. Erwin Schrödinger was an Austrian physicist who devised an experiment based on the Copenhagen interpretation in quantum mechanics (the Copenhagen interpretation basically assumes that the act of measuring a system causes the number of probabilities of said system to reduce to one). In this thought experiment, he placed a cat, a flask of poison, an internal monitor, and a radioactive source in a box. If the monitor detects radioactivity, the flask is shattered and the released poison kills the cat. However, there is no way to know just by looking at the box if the cat is dead or not. Thus, the cat is simultaneously alive and dead. Now, back to my (unnecessarily) convoluted metaphor!

The “Schrödinger moment” is what I have dubbed the instant where you hand your midterm to your GSI. In that moment, your grade is simultaneously “alive and dead." While some people may know as soon as they see the test that, should they look inside the box, the cat will either be definitely dead or alive, the majority of us must play the waiting game. Hence, why the “Schrödinger moment” is such a vital part of the midterm process. It gives me hope that all of my work has not been for naught and that maybe if I don’t ever look inside the box, everything will be okay. However, that relief doesn’t last long. Once the euphoric high dies, the panic sets in. Was that the right approach? Did I even make a counterargument? Is 2+2 really 4?! This initial doubt is then followed by weeks spent in a perpetual state of either curiosity or dread, depending on your take on that whole half full/half empty debate.

So, when the time comes to look inside the box (and by "box", I mean bCourses) I can’t imagine anybody purposefully avoiding the knowledge of what is inside it. Sure, you may have to steer the conversations clear of your grades over summer break, but just as the Copenhagen interpretation assumes that “the act of measurement defines the system” so too does your midterm grade define the rest of the semester. Just check it. There are realistically only two possible outcomes. One: you are pleasantly surprised by the result and decide to “treat yo self” for the rest of the day. Or two: you now know what you need to get on all of the other assignments to at least pass your class (and, no, getting 125 percent on the final is not an event that I would count on). Neither option is worth stressing out over. Trust me. So, take the plunge and look inside the box, because there can’t be anything worse than being both alive and dead at the same time.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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