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Unemployed Philosophers Guild / iStock

You Won't Know if Schrödinger's Cat Is Alive or Dead Until You Use These Mugs

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Unemployed Philosophers Guild / iStock

Schrödinger's Cat is probably one of the most famous thought experiments of all time. Erwin Schrödingercreated the scenario as a means to explain quantum mechanics, but as it turns out, the analogy also works great as a mug. The Unemployed Philosophers Guild is now making matching, heat-sensitive mugs showing identical boxes. Either a living cat or a dead cat will appear when you pour hot liquid in, but you have no way of knowing for sure until you do.

The mugs mirror the scenario that Schrödinger created to point out flaws in the Copenhagen Interpretation. To get super basic, quantum mechanics is concerned with observing things way too small for the human eye to see. In order to observe them, the objects have to be altered in some way, so it's impossible to say what they were doing before being observed. The Copenhagen Interpretation says that an object can exist in all possible configurations until it's observed, when it collapses into just one.

Schrödinger's Cat takes this theory and brings it to a hypothetical, macro-scale. When we think of a cat being simultaneously alive and dead simply because we haven't checked, we see how absurd the idea is.

The analogy comes to life on the two matching mugs, which make the thought experiment a bit more literal. Grab them on ThinkGeek for your own studies, and don't forget that heat sensitive mugs can't go in the microwave or dishwasher.

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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers
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Animals
Inside Crumbs & Whiskers, the Bicoastal Cat Cafe That's Saving Kitties' Lives
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Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

It took a backpacking trip to Thailand and a bit of serendipity for Kanchan Singh to realize her life goal of saving cats while serving lattes. “I met these two guys on the road [in 2014], and we became friends,” Singh tells Mental Floss about Crumbs & Whiskers, the bicoastal cat cafe she founded in Washington, D.C. in 2015 which, in addition to selling coffee and snacks, fosters adoptable felines from shelters. “They soon noticed that I was feeding every stray dog and cat in sight," and quickly picked up on the fact that their traveling companion was crazy about all things furry and fluffy.

On Singh’s final day in Thailand, which happened to be her birthday, her friends surprised her with a celebratory trip to a cat cafe in the city of Chiang Mai. “I remember walking in there being like, ‘This is the coolest, most amazing, weirdest thing I’ve ever done,'” Singh recalls. “I just connected with it so much on a spiritual level.”

Singh informed her friends that she planned to return to the U.S., quit her corporate consulting job, and open up her own cat cafe in the nation’s capital. They thought she was joking. But three years and two storefronts later, the joke is on everyone except for Singh—and the kitties she and her team have helped to rescue.

A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
A customer pets cats while drinking coffee at the flagship Washington, D.C. location of cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.
Washington, D.C. customers stroke a furry feline while enjoying coffee at Crumbs & Whiskers.
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Crumbs & Whiskers—which, in addition to its flagship D.C. location, also has a Los Angeles outpost—keeps a running count of the cats they've saved from risk of euthanasia and those who have been adopted. At press time, those numbers were 776 and 388, respectively, between the brand’s two locations.

Prices and services vary between establishments, but customers can typically expect to shell out anywhere from $6.50 to $35 to enjoy coffee time with cats (food and drinks are prepared off-site for health and safety reasons), activities like cat yoga sessions, or, in D.C., an entire day of coworking with—you guessed it—cats. Patrons can also participate in the occasional promotion or campaign, ranging from Black Friday fundraisers for shelter kitties to writing an ex-flame's name inside a litter box around Valentine's Day (where the cats will then do their business).

Cat cafes have existed in Asia for nearly 20 years, with the world’s first known one, Cat Flower Garden, opening in Taipei, Taiwan in 1998. The trend gained traction in Japan during the mid 2000s, and quickly spread across Asia. But when Singh visited Chiang Mai, the cat cafe craze—while alive and thriving in Thailand—had not yet hit the U.S. "Why does Thailand get this, but not the U.S.?" Singh remembers thinking.

Once she arrived back home in D.C., Singh set her sights on founding the nation’s first official cat cafe, launching a successful Kickstarter campaign that helped her secure a two-story space in the city’s Georgetown neighborhood. Ultimately, though, she was beat to the punch by the Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, which opened to the public in 2014, followed shortly after by establishments like New York City’s Meow Parlour.

LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
LA customers at cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers
Courtesy of Crumbs & Whiskers

Still, Crumbs & Whiskers—which officially launched in D.C. in the summer of 2015—was among the nation’s first wave of businesses (and the District's first) to offer customers the chance to enjoy feline companionship with a side of java, along with the opportunity to maybe even save a tiny life. Ultimately, the altruistic concept proved to be so successful that Singh, sensing a market for a similar storefront in Los Angeles, opened up a second location there in the fall of 2016. "I always felt like what L.A. is, culturally, just fits with the type of person that would go to a cat café," she says.

Someday, Singh hopes to bring Crumbs & Whiskers to Chicago and New York, and “for cat cafes as a concept, as an industry, to grow,” she says. “I think that it would be great for this to be the future of adoptions and animal rescues.” Until then, you can learn more about Crumbs & Whiskers (and the animals they rescue) by stopping by if you're in D.C. and LA, or by visiting their website.

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LEGO Ideas
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Design
Fans of The Office, Rejoice: A Dunder Mifflin LEGO Set Could Someday Become a Reality
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LEGO Ideas

After nine seasons filled with pranks, gags, awkward jokes, and just a few too many “That’s what she said's,” the finale of NBC’s The Office aired on May 16, 2013. While the beloved show probably won’t be getting a reboot anytime soon, LEGO fans may someday be able to recreate the cast’s shenanigans with their very own Dunder Mifflin-inspired set.

Jaijai Lewis, a 36-year-old market researcher from New York City, has submitted a toy recreation of the fictional paper sales company’s Scranton branch to the LEGO Ideas website. It’s a miniature replica of the TV show's titular office, complete with the main shared space (cubicles and desk plants included), a conference room, and separate offices for Michael and Darryl. These rooms are designed to be modular, and can either be connected together or remain separate.

Of course, Lewis made sure to include mini-replicas of the whole gang, including Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, Angela, Meredith, and more. They come with tiny accessories, like Michael’s Golden Dundie, Meredith’s water bottle, and Pam’s ring. (The last one fits in Jim’s suitcase.)

If 10,000 different fans support a design on the LEGO Ideas blog, it will become eligible for review to become a real-life product. The LEGO Dunder Mifflin has already hit the coveted 10K number, so with any luck, you could eventually see it on the shelves of a toy store near you.

Check out some pictures of Lewis’s design below, or visit the LEGO Ideas site for more details.

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

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