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Quantum in the Real World: Scientists are Able to See Quantum Effects With Naked Eye for the First Time

Jan 16, 2017 08:57 AM EST
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Scientists may have finally brought "nonsensical" quantum physics into the real world for the first time using a new experiment. They have frozen a drum, that's large enough be seen by the naked eye, close to absolute zero.

According to the Independent, the general idea of quantum physics is that things can be in two places at once. Merely looking at one particle can alter a twin on the other side instantaneously; meaning, theoretical objects can be both alive and dead.

Certainty is somehow replaced by chance, an idea which perplexed Albert Einstein to famously say that "God doesn't play dice with the universe." Such strange, almost magical effects, have always been confined to atoms. At least until now. 

The study, published in the journal Nature, states that scientists at the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Colorado reported the first "glimpse" of quantum effects on a scale just large enough to be seen by the naked eye.

This is a breakthrough in itself that could have a number of important implications, including creating quantum computers that are a million times faster than our current machines.

John Teufel, one of the researchers, told the Independent that we are at an exciting time where this technology gives access to things that we can only talk about.

The way they achieved the breakthrough is weird in itself. They created an aluminum drum, about the diameter of "a very skinny hair." It was cooled at a temperature that's fractionally above absolute zero (minus 273.15 degrees Celsius or zero Kelvin) using microwave light.

While shining a light on something normally means heating it up, the case now is that it "steals" energy from the drum as it vibrates. The scientists were able to "squeeze" the light so all photons "know about each other."

National Geographic states that this process allowed them to cool the drum to a point that was previously thought impossible. It's hard to express the temperature in Celsius as it is so cold. However, the standard microwave-cooling method allowed the researcher to get the drum to within a few hundred microKelvin of absolute zero or 0.4 quanta. 

At this temperature, the researchers were able to observe "glimpses of quantum effects." This just proves previous researches, such as one in 2004, where scientists in Austria reported teleporting photons across the Danube river. However, Teufel and his colleagues are hoping to teleport something large enough to be seen. 

This research could help establish the point at which the rules of quantum mechanics are replaced by more ordinary physics, and how these rules for extremely tiny objects could also govern the movements of stars and planets.

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