The quantum world is weird. Period! How weird? Imagine yourself in a mansion where no one knows you’re in there, do you exist? You do, its just a matter of making yourself known to an observer, but to a quantum physicists, you don’t exist unless someone sees you’re in there. And, even if you do, you could be in any room, so the observer has to see you just to be sure you exist. That’s how weird quantum physics is. Mind blown?
This rule of quantum mechanics is known as Heisenberg uncertainty principle — it states that the more precisely you know a particle’s position, the less you can also know about its momentum, and vice versa. However, a new technique might have hammered a nail in it’s coffin. There’s now a loophole around this rule for the first time in almost 100 years.
Related media: What Is The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle?
The Quantum Loophole
The uncertainty principle is the key fundamental concept of quantum mechanics which was first introduced by German physicist Werner Heisenberg in the late 1920s. According to quantum physics, particles like the electron or photon can also behave like a wave, and as a result, these particles can neither have a well-defined position nor momentum at the same time. For instance, determining the momentum of a particle can alter the position as well, therefore the position can’t be well defined.
In the aforementioned scenario, your movement through the mansion could alter the observer’s vision of your position, therefore your position of existence cannot be precisely determined. Where are you now?
In a recent study published in Science led by professor Mika Sillanpää of the Aalto University, Finland, researchers have proven that there is a way to get around the uncertainty principle. The new theoretical model for the experiment was developed by Dr. Matt Woolley from the University of New South Wales, Australia. For their experiment, the researchers instead of using particles as usual, they used much larger objects: two vibrating drumheads one-fifth of the width of a human hair (that’s roughly the size of a marble in comparison with a tennis ball) were carefully coerced into behaving like quantum wave.
Quantum Drumming Heads
What this means is that, the researchers were able (for the first time) to measure the position and the momentum of the two drumheads at the same time — which isn’t possible according to the uncertainty principle. Being able to break the rule meant that they’ll be able to characterize extremely weak forces at play on the drumheads (pun intended).
“In our work, the drumheads exhibit a collective quantum motion,” says Dr. Laure Mercier de Lepinay, an associate professor at Aalto University, and the lead author of the study. “The drums vibrate in an opposite phase to each other, such that when one of them is in an end position of the vibration cycle, the other is in the opposite position at the same time.”
In our scenario further above, the observer is now able to see your motion through the mansion and also known which room you were at. That’s like possible all the time, right? But in the quantum world, observing discrete particles and measuring their position relative to their momentum is pretty much uncertain in the world of classic physics. So the observer will never see where you are and how you move at the same time. Still weird?
“In this situation,” as Dr. de Lepinay concludes, “the quantum uncertainty of the drums’ motion is canceled if the two drums are treated as one quantum-mechanical entity.”
Quantum Entangled Loophead, Or Loophole?
Moreover, the researchers were also able to prove with so much evidence to this date, that all such large objects exhibit quantum entanglement — the physical state two quantum entities share both in position and in momentum, such that one state cannot be described independently of the state of the others.
Entangled objects aren’t independently of each other, though they might be far away from each other in position and momentum. Entanglement lets most objects behave in a manner that seems contradictory to classical physics, and this is the underlying resource behind emerging quantum technology.
A typical example is quantum computing. A quantum computer is capable of computations that will take a traditional computer like forever to solve in a matter of seconds. On a macroscopic scale, effects of quantum entanglement are very fragile, and are susceptible to being destroyed by any interference from surrounding environments. And as a result, their experiment was carried out at a very minuscule temperature — only a 100th degree above absolute zero, at minus 273 degree Celsius (minus 459.4 degree Fahrenheit).
“One of the drums responds to all the forces of the other drum in the opposing way, kind of with a negative mass,” Prof. Sillanpää says.
Here’s the future: these ideas will be used in labs to further test their understanding of the applications of quantum mechanics and gravity; and the vibrating drumheads will serve as possible interfaces for connecting nodes of large-scale distribution quantum networks.
Source: Aalto University
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Written by: Nana Kwadwo, Thu, Oct 14, 2021.