Schrodinger's cat: two atoms in one?Underlying the peculiar world of quantum mechanics quantum mechanics: see quantum theory.
Branch of mathematical physics that deals with atomic and subatomic systems. It is concerned with phenomena that are so small-scale that they cannot be described in classical terms, and it is is the notion that, under certain circumstances, matter can exist in more than one state or position at the same time.
Long held as an oddity of quantum mechanical theory, this property of matter has defied easy experimental realization. Even more exotic is the idea that the act of observation or measurement somehow determines which state exists at any given moment.
To illustrate quantum mechanics' strange nature, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrodinger proposed in 1926 a puzzling thought experiment. If a cat is placed in a sealed box and its fate-to live or die-is correlated with whether or not an atom radioactively decays, then the presence of the atom's decayed and undecayed quantum states translates into a cat that is simultaneously dead and alive-a highly counterintuitive coun·ter·in·tu·i·tive
Contrary to what intuition or common sense would indicate: "Scientists made clear what may at first seem counterintuitive, that the capacity to be pleasant toward a fellow creature is ... idea.
Now, a team of physicists has managed to create a "Schrodinger-cat-like state of matter" in a single atom. By supercooling Supercooling is the process of chilling a liquid below its freezing point, without it becoming solid. Description
A liquid below its freezing point will crystallize in the presence of a seed crystal or nucleus around which a crystal structure can form. a beryllium beryllium (bərĭl`ēəm) [from beryl ], metallic chemical element; symbol Be; at. no. 4; at. wt. 9.01218; m.p. about 1,278°C;; b.p. 2,970°C; (estimated); sp. gr. 1.85 at 20°C;; valence +2. atom with a laser, then prodding it with a rapid sequence of laser pulses, the physicists have managed to get the atom to oscillate To swing back and forth between the minimum and maximum values. An oscillation is one cycle, typically one complete wave in an alternating frequency. in such a way that it exists "in the bizarre state of being in two well-separated positions at once." "This situation defies our sense of reality," say Christopher Monroe, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology National Institute of Standards and Technology, governmental agency within the U.S. Dept. of Commerce with the mission of "working with industry to develop and apply technology, measurements, and standards" in the national interest. in Boulder, Colo., and his colleagues in the May 24 Science. "Schrodinger's cat paradox is a classic illustration of the conflict between the existence of quantum superpositions and our real-world experience of observation and measurement."
When we observe cats, they say, we don't expect our observations to influence whether the felines die or stay alive-or to see one cat both dead and alive. In the recent atomic experiment, the researchers make one cold beryllium atom vibrate harmonically, producing what they call a superposition su·per·po·si·tion
1. The act of superposing or the state of being superposed: "Yet another technique in the forensic specialist's repertoire is photo superposition" of two "coherent-state wave packets." The atom's electrons oscillate in a way that creates a dual presence, as if two atoms existed in distinct locations at the same time.
"Imagine a marble in a bowl, rolling back and forth," says Monroe. "At one point, the one marble appears as two marbles rolling back and forth in opposite directions, passing through each other and appearing simultaneously at each edge of the bowl."
The atom's two states are separated by 80 nanometers. "For a brief period, the atom appears to exist in two places," Monroe says. "This is a marvelous experiment," says Wojciech H. Zurek Wojciech Hubert Zurek (born 1951) is a well-known physicist and a Laboratory Fellow at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He is a leading authority on quantum theory, especially decoherence, and other physics topics. , a physicist at Los Alamos (N.M.) National Laboratory. "They're putting an ion into a trap and separating it into a very weird superposition. It's very clever."
Although this experiment involves only a single atom rather than a visible object, such as a cat, Zurek says it will open the door to deeper experimental probes into "the boundary between classical physics and quantum mechanics." While this experiment ignores macroscopic macroscopic /mac·ro·scop·ic/ (mak?ro-skop´ik) gross (2).
mac·ro·scop·ic or mac·ro·scop·i·cal
1. Large enough to be perceived or examined by the unaided eye.
2. effects on objects such as Schrodinger's cat, it may at least have demonstrated, says Zurek, "the paradox of Schrodinger's kitten."