The quantum absurdity that leads to the notion of Schrodinger’s cat — in which a cat can exist in two states simultaneously — could finally be tested in an object visible to the naked eye, a new study demonstrates.
Scientists have created a pendulum-like membrane that is so perfectly isolated from friction and heat “that it would just keep going for 10 years with a single push,” said study co-author Simon Gröblacher, a physicist at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. “If you create a quantum state in this object, it will not go away.”
This tiny, flea-size swing could allow scientists to finally test whether the quantum effects behind the Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment do indeed exist at large scales.
Cat in trouble
In 1936, physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed a now-famous thought experiment meant to highlight the bizarre implications of quantum mechanics. In his formulation, a cat is trapped in a box with a radioactive atom. If that atom decays, the cat will be poisoned and die, but if the atom has not decayed, the cat lives.
The so-called Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics implied that the radioactive atom is in two states at once, simultaneously decayed and undecayed, until some brave soul opens the box and measures or perturbs the atom. By extension, the cat would be both dead and alive at the same time, until the box was opened.
The weird phenomenon, known as superposition, has been demonstrated time and again with tiny, subatomic particles. Yet scientists have never observed a…