In Cardwell Hall, there is a secret underground laboratory hidden from the prying eyes of students — many of whom are unaware of its existence — where covert science is conducted by Kansas State University’s top researchers.
One of these researchers is Erwin Schumacher, distinguished professor of physics. He and his team have announced a startling discovery in the field of feline behavior science.
“After running some rigorous tests, the K-State physics department is pleased to announce that we have determined a Wildcat in a box to be simultaneously purple and silver until observed,” Schumacher said. “We will hopefully be publishing our results soon.”
The experiment, as Schumacher described it, was “simple, yet ingenious.” Schumacher and his team wanted the experiment to answer a simple question: In unbiased circumstances, is a Wildcat’s true primary color purple or silver?
An authentic K-State Wildcat was placed into a box in a double blind test where none of the researchers knew exactly what color it was before opening the box and confirming its pigmentation.
Through thousands of trials testing for statistical patterns, the research team ultimately concluded that, for all practical intents and purposes, Wildcats should be considered simultaneously purple and silver until their true color can be observed.
“It’s like asking if a zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes,” Schumacher said. “You can never really know for sure, so it might as well be both, in a way.”
The experiment is similar to other physics experiments studying the phenomenon of quantum superposition, where subatomic particles can simultaneously be in two distinct states until they are interfered with, typically by observational research equipment.
Schumacher, however, noted that “Wildcats are way cuter than subatomic particles.”
Richard Grayson, graduate student in physics, is one of the researchers working with Schumacher on his Wildcat experiments. Grayson said these results have been a long time coming.
“Good science always takes a while, but this experiment really dragged on,” Grayson said. “I’m pretty sure we’ve had three university presidents in the time it took to finalize our results.”
Grayson said he is not sure how the results of this experiment will be utilized for practical purposes, but he is certain Schumacher will “make something up.”
Willie the Wildcat was unwilling to give his thoughts on the experiment, but when approached, he enthusiastically nodded his head and made a Wildcat symbol with his right hand before walking away to give pedestrians high fives.