Nav: Home

Can we peek at Schrodinger's cat without disturbing it?

October 02, 2019

Quantum physics is difficult and explaining it even more so. Associate Professor Holger F. Hofmann from Hiroshima University and Kartik Patekar from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay have tried to solve one of the biggest puzzles in quantum physics: how to measure the quantum system without changing it?

Their new paper published this month has found that by reading the information observed from a quantum system away from the system itself researchers can determine its state, depending on the method of analysis. Although the analysis is completely removed from the quantum system, it is possible to restore the initial superposition of possible outcomes by a careful reading of the quantum data.

"Normally we would search for something by looking. But in this case looking changes the object, this is the problem with quantum mechanics. We can use complicated maths to describe it, but how can we be sure that the mathematics describes what is really there? When we measure something there is a trade-off and the other possibilities of what it could be are lost. You cannot find out about anything without an interaction, you pay a price in advance." explains Hofmann.

During Patekar's month-long stay at Hiroshima University when he was an undergraduate student, the two physicists tried to imagine ways of measuring the system without "paying the price" i.e. keeping the system's superposition or meaning that the system can exist in all states. In order to understand their results Hofmann describes their findings using the well-known physics story of Schrödinger's cat:

Schrödinger's cat is in a box and the scientists don't know whether it is dead or alive. A camera is set up looking into the box that takes a photo from a position outside of the box. The photo taken of the cat comes out blurry; we can see there is a cat but not whether it is dead or alive. The flash from the camera has also removed a "quantum tag" marking the superposition of the cat. This photo is now entangled with the fate of the cat i.e. we can decide what happened to the cat by processing this photo in a certain way.

The photo could then be taken away from the box and processed on a computer or in a darkroom. Depending on what method is used to process the photo, we can find out either if the cat is alive or dead, or what the flash did to the cat, restoring the quantum tag. The choice of the reader determines what we know about the cat. We can find out if it's dead/alive or restore the quantum tag that was removed when the picture was taken, but not both.

This is only a step forward in our understanding of quantum mechanics. Today its full application remains confined to expert-level systems like quantum computers, although some of its aspects can also be used in precise measurements, and for secure communication using quantum cryptography.

"This is a key part of my research. I really wanted to understand why this quantum weirdness is there. I focused on measurements because that's where the weirdness comes from!" says Hofmann.

Hiroshima University

Related Quantum Physics Articles:

Quantum physics: On the way to quantum networks
Physicists at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich, together with colleagues at Saarland University, have successfully demonstrated the transport of an entangled state between an atom and a photon via an optic fiber over a distance of up to 20 km -- thus setting a new record.
Quantum physics: Controlled experiment observes self-organized criticality
Researchers from Cologne, Heidelberg, Strasbourg and California have observed important characteristics of complex systems in a lab experiment.
A platform for stable quantum computing, a playground for exotic physics
Harvard University researchers have demonstrated the first material that can have both strongly correlated electron interactions and topological properties, which not only paves the way for more stable quantum computing but also an entirely new platform to explore the wild world of exotic physics.
A new quantum data classification protocol brings us nearer to a future 'quantum internet'
A new protocol created by researchers at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona sorts and classifies quantum data by the state in which they were prepared, with more efficiency than the equivalent classical algorithm.
Quantum physics: Ménage à trois photon-style
When two photons become entangled, the quantum state of the first will correlate perfectly with the quantum state of the second.
Quantum physics -- Simulating fundamental interactions with ultracold atoms
An international team of physicists succeeded in precisely engineering key ingredients to simulate a specific lattice gauge theory using ultracold atoms in optical lattices.
A key piece to understanding how quantum gravity affects low-energy physics
In a new study, led by researchers from SISSA (Scuola Internazionale Superiore di Studi Avanzati), the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Waterloo, a solid theoretical framework is provided to discuss modifications to the Unruh effect caused by the microstructure of space-time.
Helping physics teachers who don't know physics
A shortage of high school physics teachers has led to teachers with little-to-no training taking over physics classrooms, reports show.
Quantum physics and origami for the ultimate get-well card
The bizarre optical properties of tiny metal particles -- smaller than light waves -- can be captured on paper to detect even a single target molecule in a test sample.
Can artificial intelligence solve the mysteries of quantum physics?
A new study published in Physical Review Letters by Prof.
More Quantum Physics News and Quantum Physics Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Mindset
In the past few months, human beings have come together to fight a global threat. This hour, TED speakers explore how our response can be the catalyst to fight another global crisis: climate change. Guests include political strategist Tom Rivett-Carnac, diplomat Christiana Figueres, climate justice activist Xiye Bastida, and writer, illustrator, and artist Oliver Jeffers.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Speedy Beet
There are few musical moments more well-worn than the first four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. But in this short, we find out that Beethoven might have made a last-ditch effort to keep his music from ever feeling familiar, to keep pushing his listeners to a kind of psychological limit. Big thanks to our Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians: Deborah Buck and Suzy Perelman on violin, Arash Amini on cello, and Ah Ling Neu on viola. And check out The First Four Notes, Matthew Guerrieri's book on Beethoven's Fifth. Support Radiolab today at