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.


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.