General, Research, Technology

Physicists figured out how to save the Schrödinger cat

In 1935, the Austrian physicist Edwin Schrödingerproposed a thought experiment in order to demonstrate the absurdity of quantum mechanics. A Schrödinger cat became a participant in a thought experiment, which, together with a radioactive substance and a special mechanism that opens a flask with poison, is placed in a closed box. In the event of a decay of a radioactive atom - and this can happen at any time, but when it is not known exactly - the mechanism will open a container with poison and the cat will die. But you can only find out if the radioactive atom decayed or not by looking into the box. Up to this point, according to the principles of quantum physics, a cat is both alive and dead. This state is known as “quantum superposition” - the totality of all states in which a cat can be at the same time. But is it possible to somehow save the unfortunate animal? Physicists believe yes.

The only thing scientists know for sure today is that cats really like boxes

Cat in a box

It is believed that the Schrödinger cat canbe in two states at the same time, but researchers at Yale University believe that the cat can not only be dead or alive, but that it can be saved from death. It's all about the detected warning sign for quantum transitions that were once considered instantaneous and unpredictable. As a result, the fate of the Schrödinger cat can be not only predicted in advance, but even reversed! Despite the fact that Schrodinger's famous cat is a thought experiment, it contains a key mystery of quantum theory.

Quantum physics is very very strange and ifit seems to you that you don’t understand it, don’t worry, even physicists feel like this. About why quantum physics is so similar to magic, read here.

The basic assumption of quantum mechanicslies in the fact that on the smallest scales the properties of atoms are quantized, which means that particles take discrete rather than continuous states. For example, an electron may be in a low-energy state, but if you add a little more energy, it will not slowly transition to a new high-energy state. Rather, he will transition into a new state unpredictably. Moreover, if you do not observe it, then the atom can take intermediate states - it will be in both states at the same time, and then, as soon as you notice it, it will immediately go into one state or another.

However, an experiment conducted last year,seems to complicate some of the basic ideas of quantum theory. According to a study published in the journal Nature, physicists were able to predict a kind of atomic behavior called a quantum jump, and even reverse the leap. The experiment turned out to be possible on an artificial atom in laboratory conditions.

While the cat is in the box, it is both alive and dead.

It should be noted that such studiesraise more serious questions about the nature of physics and can have important consequences for improving quantum computers, whose work relies on the rules of quantum mechanics. Read more about what a quantum computer is and how it works, read our material.

How to predict a quantum leap?

Artificial atoms are called qubits. They are used as basic units.information in a quantum computer. Each time a qubit is measured, it performs a quantum jump, but these jumps are unpredictable, and all attempts to construct quantum computing are extremely problematic. In an attempt to save the Schrödinger cat, a team from Yale developed an experiment to indirectly observe a superconducting qubit.

For the experiment, scientists have prepareda special installation, including three microwave generators for irradiating qubits, which were in a sealed three-dimensional aluminum housing. During the study of physicists, two specially tuned microwave signals were used. One ray of microwave light provided energy for a quantum leap, while the other allowed scientists to monitor the situation. It was possible to detect quantum jumps when the “atom” was excited or lost energy. According to The Guardian, researchers believe that “quantum jumps” are not so much sharp jumps between the energy levels of atoms, but gradual transitions, more like slipping.

Read even more fascinating articles about our amazing Universe on our channel in Yandex.Zen. There are regularly published articles that are not on the site!

“The quantum jumps of an atom are somewhat similar to volcanic eruptions. They are completely unpredictable in the long run, the authors of the study write.

I note that in ordinary atoms there are “states”are represented by the arrangement of the electron around the nucleus of the atom, but in this artificial atom the state is represented by a quantized property, the value of which changes as the electrons pass through the aluminum box enclosure. Technically, this quantum system is a two-qubit quantum computer that follows the same principles as other quantum systems, including electrons around atoms.

You will be interested: Quantum physics will explain your strange deeds

However, even despite the stunning results, the researchers had only a moment before the transition between the states took place. It means that scientists cannot predict the exact day and time of the transition of the state of the atom. But this level of foresight can be useful.for quantum computers. Technology based on this experiment may allow quantum computing researchers to identify errors as they arise.

It’s important to understand that there’s still a lot of work to do,before these studies will be integrated into existing quantum computers. Other experts in the field welcomed the study, and Professor Vlatko Vedral of the University of Oxford described it as a “very beautiful experiment.” What do you think, is it possible to save the Schrödinger cat? We will wait for the answer here!