But physicists are just a sharp reminder that our macro world is subject to the laws of quantum physics – successfully entangling a millimeter-sized drum with a large cloud of atoms.
Researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen conducted the experiment using a 13 nanometer-thick, millimeter-long silicon nitride membrane (or drum), which resonates lightly after hitting the photon.
Those photons, or particles of light, came within the perimeter of a small, cold cell courtesy of a thin fog of one billion cesium atoms.
Despite being two very different objects, the millimeter-long drum and the fog of atoms represent a tangled system – and they push the limits of quantum mechanics.
Senior researcher Eugene Polczyk says, “The larger the objects, the different they are, but they are interesting, both interesting and interesting from fundamental perspectives.”
“With the new result, entanglement between very different objects is possible”.
Entanglement is one of those concepts that feels far more mysterious than intuitive, describing a connection between objects that exist independently of time and space.
No matter how far, or how many years have passed, a change in one part of a tangled system indicates immediate adjustment to the rest.
More than once, Einstein referred to the concept as ‘a frightening action at a distance’, believing that it was more truly bizarre with our lack of knowledge.
In a century, our understanding of quantum physics not only leaves a lot of room for such versatility, it is becoming the basis for amazing new areas of innovation from super strong encryption to new types of radar.
“Quantum mechanics is like a double-edged sword,” says quantum physicist Michel Paraniec from the Niels Bohr Institute.
“It provides us with amazing new technologies, but also limits the accuracy of measurements that seem easier from a classical point of view.”
In isolation, the properties of a single particle are a worrying mess of probability represented by the rise and fall of the wave. It moves in all directions at once. Rotates in two directions at the same time. This is all and this is nothing.
As the particle interacts with other objects, its uncertainty does not immediately disappear, but adds to the complex ways that we can model it mathematically.
It is these very predictive predictions that are the backbone of quantum computers. Yet such a technique relies on the spin of a small number of relatively similar particles.
This is why this latest breakthrough is so important – a visible drum wavering in an air of photons waiting from a cloud of atoms is a whole other ballgame for physicists.
Being able to observe a large-scale entanglement that includes a wide variety of materials is like studying a language that can be applied to quantum conversations.
This would be incredibly useful for ‘listening’ on devices that require incredibly fine precision. Knowing how their quantum probability converges is an important step in finding out what otherwise would seem like clutter.
For example, take a large array or laser that makes a laser interferometer gravitational-wave observatory (LIGO). Though inexhaustible, the heart of the device draws light waves with such precision that the vacuum vacuum risks a great insult to uncertainty.
Tangled macroscopic systems such as LIGO’s mirrors may – in principle – allow researchers to better account for the degree of quantum uncertainty.
A millimeter wide drum is a comparatively small step. But for veterans like us, this is an important opportunity to listen carefully while shaking the reality beneath our feet.
This research was published in Nature.