“Fast” Jack Beckman may be the living embodiment of Schrödinger's cat. If you’re not familiar with this strange feline, it’s a thought experiment created by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. The paradox of Schrödinger's cat is often used to illustrate interpretations of quantum mechanics. In simple terms the thought experiment imagines a cat locked in a steel box which contains a mechanism that is just as likely to randomly kill the cat as not. The point is that until an outside observer looks into the box, the cat is both alive and dead—that is it exists in two states at the same time until objectively measured.

We thought of the quantum cat as we talked with Jack at his home in Southern California and shared a special night at Irwindale Dragstrip with him and his family. Beckman, who drives the Valvoline NextGen Don Schumacher Racing funny car, was the embodiment of both his job as a professional nitro funny car driver, yet was thoroughly comfortable in his former world of grass roots sportsman racing that surrounded him that evening at Irwindale.