Scientists have finally created an object which can be in two places at the same time.
This “quantum state” has only been managed with single particles, atoms and molecules.
According to the journal Nature, which we get for the Schrödinger’s Cat lost and found section, boffins produced a quantum state in an object billions of times larger than previous tests.
Quantum mechanics laws claim that objects absorb and emit energy in tiny discrete packets known as quanta.
It is a bit like coloured glass, which can absorb a certain colour of light. If you say that the light is made up of photons, then the glass atoms absorb only photons with the quanta (or amount) of energy that corresponds to that colour.
If all the energy that an atom gets from the jostling atoms in its environment is removed by cooling it to phenomenally low temperatures, it can reach its “quantum ground state” – no more energy can be removed.
But if you add one quantum of energy the atom can be said to be in two states at the same time.
However, creating these states in anything bigger than single atoms and molecules has proven difficult, because the larger an object is, the more tricky it becomes to isolate it from its environment.
Andrew Cleland of the University of California, Santa Barbara said that although we know that things are not in two places at the same time, physics says that they can be.
What Professor Cleland and his team have managed is shifting an object just big enough to be seen with the naked eye into a quantum state.
They used a bit of piezoelectric material, which expands and contracts when an electrical current is run through it.
They cooled the whole lot down to a thousandth of a degree above absolute zero and pumped in just one quantum of electrical energy.
The team showed that the resonator was in one of the slippery superpositions of states, with both one and zero quanta of energy.
All this is good stuff for those who want to build a quantum-based memory storage system.