Bouncing laser beams could bring quantum strangeness to the everyday world.
The quantum world of atoms and subatomic particles is full of intuition-defying phenomena such as objects existing in two different states at once. We dont normally have to worry about such weirdness impinging on our everyday macroscopic world. But Italian physicists have worked out how to invest something we can see and touch with quantum strangeness.
Stefano Mancini, of the University of Milan, and colleagues plan to entangle two mirrors1. The fates of entangled objects are intimately entwined by the rules of quantum mechanics. If the plan works, one mirror will not exist in one state without the other being in another well-defined state.
Next stop teleportation?
Physicists hope to use entangled states of quantum particles, such as photons, to process information in new ways. By encoding information into the different states of atoms and photons, they are devising secure encryption methods for data transmission, to teleport quantum states from one place to another, and to produce new, ultrafast computers.
But no matter what the writers of Star Trek would have us believe, effects such as teleportation are not generally possible at the macroscopic scale, because entanglements of more than a handful of particles are extremely fragile.
Interactions between the particles and their environment typically disrupt their delicate interdependencies. The disruption is more pronounced the warmer the system gets. Even temperatures of just a degree or so above absolute zero are usually sufficient to blur out entanglements in systems that contain many particles.
PHILIP BALL | © Nature News Service
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Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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