In Schrödinger’s 1935-thought experiment, a cat found itself in a closed box with a small radioactive source, a Geiger counter, a hammer and a small bottle of poison. It would make the cat potentially dead or alive – and thus create two very hacked off moggies.
Now the boffins will suspend a common microbe in that same uncertain state similar to that endured by Schrödinger’s cat to see what happens.
The uncertainty will centre on the bacteria’s geographical whereabouts.
Tongcang Li of Purdue University, Indiana, told the Guardian that the experiment should put an organism in two different locations at the same time.
“In many fairy tales, a fairy could be at two different locations or change locations instantly. This will be similar to that. Although it will be a microbe instead of a fairy,” he added.
So far no one has managed to get quantum superposition state of an organism yet.
The researchers plan to build on the work of others at the University of Colorado who showed in 2013 that a tiny, vibrating aluminium membrane could be placed in a superposition of states.
“We propose to simply put a small microbe on top of the aluminium membrane. The microbe will also be in a superposition state when the aluminium membrane is in a superposition state. The principle is quite simple,” Dr Li said.
The researchers plan to go one step further in a second experiment that would entangle the position of the microbe with the spin of an electron inside it. “The purpose of the second experiment is to make the system useful. It can be used to detect defects of DNA and proteins in a microbe, and image the microbe with single electron spin sensitivity,” Dr Li said.