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Schrodinger’s Fuel Pump

November 2, 2018

Have you tried it?


It looks like it’s all put back together.

It is.

So, why haven’t you tried it yet.

Schrodinger’s cat.

Erwin Schrodinger was an Austrian physicist. In 1935 he devised a thought experiment. The experiment is commonly known as the problem of Schrodinger’s cat. The experiment goes like this. There’s a box and inside the box is the famous cat and a bottle of poison. The bottle will break at some point and release the poison killing the cat.

Now, the question: Is the cat alive or dead? Schrodinger postulated that so long as the box remains unopened the cat can be assumed to be both alive and dead.

It’s an observation on the nature of quantum physics. The essense of quantum physics is the idea that a quantum particle can be both present and not present at the same time. If you attempt to observe the particle (if you open the box) then the quantum particle is either there or not, but it no longer has the unique property of being both there and not there.

What’s that have to do with my truck and my broken fuel pump? As long as I don’t actually attempt to start the truck I can consider the fuel pump both broken and fixed. It’s only when I put it to the test, when I open the box, that I will know.

When you suspect that your fuel pump has failed, there are several tests. After all, lots of things can keep your car or truck from starting. A bad fuel pump is just one of them. It could be a blown fuse, a shorted wire, a dead battery, a bad alternator.

The easiest test is to turn your ignition to the on position and listen for the fuel pump to turn on. In a car, you can typically hear it as a low hum. It’s harder to hear with a truck. The fuel pump is located inside the fuel tank. The fuel tank is located underneath the truck bed.

My friend was not as interested in the quantum nature of the repair.

So, give it a try.

I’d been dreading opening the box. I spent a long time trying to fix the cat. If I turned the key and the quantum particle was not there, I would have spent a lot of time and the cost of the new fuel pump for nothing.

And honestly, since I started doing my own repairs I’ve found I have a serious distrust of my mechanic.

My neighbor stood next to the stripped down frame of the truck near the fuel tank.

Try it now.

I turned the key to the On position and listened. I still heard nothing. However, glancing back, my neighbor gave a big thumbs up.

When you install a new fuel pump, the fuel lines are empty. You need to prime them before you can actually start the engine. After a few seconds, I turned the key back off for a second and then turned it back to the On position. After a few more seconds, I cranked the engine and it caught on the first try.

In my tortured analogy, I think that means Schrodinger got his cat back.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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