The uncertainty principle, first introduced by Werner Heisenberg in the late 1920s, is a fundamental concept in quantum mechanics. In the quantum world, particles like the electrons that power all electrical products can also behave like waves. As a result, the particles cannot simultaneously have a well-defined position and momentum. For example, measuring the momentum of a particle leads to a disturbance of the position, and therefore the position cannot be precisely defined.
In recent research, published in Science, a team led by Professor Mika Sillanpää from Aalto University in Finland has shown that there is a way around the principle of uncertainty. The team included Dr Matt Woolley from the University of New South Wales in Australia, who developed the theoretical model of the experiment.
Instead of elementary particles, the team performed the experiments using much larger objects: two vibrant skins one-fifth the width of a human hair. The skins have been carefully forced to behave in quantum ways.
“In our work, the drums exhibit collective quantum movement. The drums vibrate in a phase opposite to each other, so that when one of them is in a final position of the vibration cycle, the other is in the position opposite to the same In this situation, the quantum uncertainty of the movement of the drums is canceled if the two drums are treated as a single quantum mechanical entity, ”explains the study’s lead author, Dr Laure Mercier de Lepinay.
This means that the researchers were able to measure the position and momentum of both skins simultaneously – which should not be possible under Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. Breaking the rule allows them to characterize extremely weak forces driving the drumheads.
“One of the drums responds to all the forces of the other drum in an opposite way, sort of with negative mass,” says Sillanpää.
In addition, the researchers also exploited this result to provide the strongest evidence to date that such large objects can exhibit what is known as quantum entanglement. Entangled objects cannot be described independently of each other, even though they may have arbitrarily large spatial separation. Entanglement allows pairs of objects to behave in ways that contradict classical physics, and is the key resource behind emerging quantum technologies. A quantum computer can, for example, perform the kinds of calculations needed to invent new drugs much faster than any supercomputer.
In macroscopic objects, quantum effects like entanglement are very fragile and are easily destroyed by disturbances in their surrounding environment. Therefore, the experiments were performed at a very low temperature, only one hundredth of a degree above absolute zero at -273 degrees.
In the future, the research group will use these ideas in lab tests to probe the interaction of quantum mechanics and gravity. Vibrating drums can also serve as interfaces to connect nodes of large-scale distributed quantum networks.
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