



Quantum cats are hard to see
December 19, 2011
International team of researchers explain the difficulty of detecting quantum effects Are there parallel universes? And how will we know? This is one of many fascinations people hold about quantum physics. Researchers from the universities of Calgary and Waterloo in Canada and the University of Geneva in Switzerland have published a paper this week in Physical Review Letters explaining why we don't usually see the physical effects of quantum mechanics. "Quantum physics works fantastically well on small scales but when it comes to larger scales, it is nearly impossible to count photons very well. We have demonstrated that this makes it hard to see these effects in our daily life," says Dr. Christoph Simon, who teaches in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary and is one of the lead authors of the paper entitled: Coarsegraining makes it hard to see micromacro entanglement. It's well known that quantum systems are fragile. When a photon interacts with its environment, even just a tiny bit, the superposition is destroyed. Superposition is a fundamental principle of quantum physics that says that systems can exist in all their possible states simultaneously. But when measured, only the result of one of the states is given. This effect is known as decoherence, and it has been studied intensively over the last few decades. The idea of decoherence as a thought experiment was raised by Erwin Schrödinger, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, in his famous cat paradox: a cat in a box can be both dead and alive at the same time. But, according to the authors of this study, it turns out that decoherence is not the only reason why quantum effects are hard to see. Seeing quantum effects requires extremely precise measurements. Simon and his team studied a concrete example for such a "cat" by using a particular quantum state involving a large number of photons. "We show that in order to see the quantum nature of this state, one has to be able to count the number of photons in it perfectly," says Simon. "This becomes more and more difficult as the total number of photons is increased. Distinguishing one photon from two photons is within reach of current technology, but distinguishing a million photons from a million plus one is not." University of Calgary Related Quantum Physics Current Events and Quantum Physics News ArticlesFrom light into matter, nothing seems to stop quantum teleportationPhysicists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) have succeeded in teleporting the quantum state of a photon to a crystal over 25 kilometres of optical fibre. Fluid mechanics suggests alternative to quantum orthodoxyThe central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. The sound of an atom has been capturedResearchers at Chalmers University of Technology are first to show the use of sound to communicate with an artificial atom. Atomically thin material opens door for integrated nanophotonic circuitsA new combination of materials can efficiently guide electricity and light along the same tiny wire, a finding that could be a step towards building computer chips capable of transporting digital information at the speed of light. Can our computers continue to get smaller and more powerful?From their origins in the 1940s as sequestered, roomsized machines designed for military and scientific use, computers have made a rapid march into the mainstream, radically transforming industry, commerce, entertainment and governance while shrinking to become ubiquitous handheld portals to the world. Diamonds are a Quantum Computer's Best FriendThe Quantum Computer is the Holy Grail of quantum technology. Its computing power would eclipse even the fastest classical computers we have today. Mapping the optimal route between two quantum states: when a straight line is not the shortest distanceAs a quantum state collapses from a quantum superposition to a classical state or a different superposition, it will follow a path known as a quantum trajectory. Spin DiagnosticsMagnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which is the medical application of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, is a powerful diagnostic tool. Mapping the optimal route between 2 quantum statesAs a quantum state collapses from a quantum superposition to a classical state or a different superposition, it will follow a path known as a quantum trajectory. Watching Schrödinger's cat die (or come to life)One of the famous examples of the weirdness of quantum mechanics is the paradox of Schrödinger's cat. More Quantum Physics Current Events and Quantum Physics News Articles

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