Thursday, May 21, 2009

Schrodinger's Chicken

This scenario came out of yore deah class tonight. Imagine that you strap a chicken into a Schrodinger's box before Shabbat starts. Seal the box closed. If something is emitted by the radiation source in a fixed interval before Shabbat the chicken dies, otherwise it lives. Because you've read too many comic books, you're worried the radiation may cause the chicken to acquire superpowers. As a result, you've equipped the interior of the box with a spring loaded kinfe that will decapitate the chicken and push the head outside the box when you pull a catch, which purely mechanically releases the knife.

No it is Shabbat evening and your whiney adorable child wants to play with a ball, only he doesn't have one. Can you decapitate the chicken, thus both giving him a ball and ensuring a lifetime of therapy bills for the poor kid?

Note: There are probably lots of shabbat violations in this setup. I'm interested in them, but the key issue I'm focused on is the following: We don't know whether the chicken is alive or not. Assuming decapitating a dead chicken is not a Shabbat violation, may we pull the catch or not?

I'll offer analysis later, but let's see what people say first.

3 comments:

jcharpak said...

You have way too much time on your hands

Michael A. Burstein said...

What he said. Way too much time. :-)

Larry Lennhoff said...

Actually I came up with the scenairo in less than a minute. It seems to me that it follows almost automatically from Rabbi Akiva Eiger's analysis of the Rema. The Rema in question says there are those who say that stoking a fire on which a non-Jew has placed a pot is forbidden because it might result in the Jew cooking meat and milk.