Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Making Big "Schroedinger Cats"

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Making Big "Schroedinger Cats"

Article excerpt

Since Erwin Schroedinger's famous 1935 cat thought experiment, physicists around the globe have tried to create large-scale systems to test how the rules of quantum mechanics apply to everyday objects.

Researchers at the University of Calgary recently made a significant step forward in this direction by creating a large system that is in two substantially different states at the same time. Until this point, scientists had only managed to recreate quantum effects on much smaller scales.

Professor Alex Lvovsky and associate professor Christoph Simon from the physics and astronomy department together with their graduate students revealed their findings in a physics research journal, Nature Physics.

In contrast to our everyday experience, quantum physics allows for particles to be in two states simultaneously--so-called quantum superpositions. A radioactive nucleus, for example, can be in both a decayed and non-decayed state.

Applying these quantum rules to large objects leads to paradoxical and even bizarre consequences. To emphasize this, Erwin Schroedinger, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, proposed in 1935 a thought experiment involving a cat that could be killed by a mechanism triggered by the decay of a single atomic nucleus. If the nucleus is in a superposition of decayed and non-decayed states, and if quantum physics applies to large objects, the belief is that the cat will be simultaneously dead and alive. …

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