Boffins create Quantum Cats

Boffins at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have created “quantum cats” which are made of entirely of photons.

Apparently they are not the same sorts of beasts that jump on your face at 5am hoping for an early breakfast, or the great hunter of giant caterpillars which they throw up on the carpet after you insist on feeding them cheaper cat food.

According to the boffins, creating a quantum cat boosts the chances for manipulating light in new ways to enhance precision measurements as well as computing and communications.

The experiments were based on Schrödinger’s Cat who was a theoretical moggy which was potentially dead and alive.The NIST experiments produced light pulses that each possessed two exactly opposite phases, as if the peaks of the light waves were superimposed on the troughs.

Physicists call this an optical Schrödinger’s cat, which makes it appear like a cat wearing dark glasses. NIST’s quantum cat was made by detecting three photons at once and is one of the largest and most well-defined cat states ever made from light.

Larger cat states have been created in different systems by other research groups, including one at NIST where they had more money to feed theirs better we guess.

NIST research associate Thomas Gerrits, lead author of the paper, said that this is a new state of light, predicted in quantum optics for a long time.

“The technologies that enable us to get these really good results are ultrafast lasers, knowledge of the type of light needed to create the cat state, and photon detectors that can actually count individual photons.”

Basically they used an ultrafast laser pulse to excite special crystals to create a form of light known as a squeezed vacuum. This contains only even numbers of photons. From this they tool a number of photons using a device called a beam splitter and counted using an NIST sensor.

What is left is what is likely to shred your curtains and chew your rubber plant, or not. Unless we have got it wrong, which we suppose we might have.