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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