Weighing 16 micrograms, the sapphire crystal is the largest object ever found in a quantum mechanical superposition of two vibrational states. A team led by Matteo Fadel of ETH Zurich stimulated the crystal to vibrate, causing the atoms to rock back and forth — in what’s known as superposition, oscillating in opposite directions at the same time. As reported by the working group in «Science», This case is consistent with the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat, which is both alive and dead at the same time depending on the decay of an atom that destroys a toxic vial. Macroscopic “cat states” are meant to help understand how and why the laws of the quantum world fit into the rules of classical physics for larger objects.
around 10 o’clock17 To make the atomic sapphire (the cat) behave like a quantum mechanical object, the team vibrated it and attached it to a superconducting circuit (the atom of Schrödinger’s thought experiment). This corresponds to a qubit: thus it is in states ‘0’ and ‘1’ at the same time. This superposition is then transferred to the vibration of the crystal: this means that the atoms in the crystal can move in two directions at the same time, eg up and down – just like Schrödinger’s cat is dead and alive at the same time. It is important that the distance between the two states is greater than that caused by the quantum mechanical uncertainty.
Using the superconducting qubit, the researchers were also able to determine the distance between two vibrational states in the crystal. Although the distance is very small at a billionth of a nanometer, it is large enough to clearly distinguish between the two states.
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