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Micro-macro entangled ‘cat states’ could one day test quantum gravity

Posted April 17, 2014
micro macro entanglement
Proposed setup for generating optomechanical “cat states,” a form of micro-macro entanglement in which the quantum states of photons and phonons are in superposition. Credit: R. Ghobadi, et al. ©2014 American Physical Society
In Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment, a cat’s quantum state becomes entangled with the quantum state of a decaying nucleus, resulting in the odd situation that the cat is both alive and dead at the same time. The thought experiment was originally intended to convey the absurdity of applying quantum mechanics to macroscopic objects, but recently physicists have been questioning whether “quantum” effects such as entanglement and superposition may apply on all scales.

In order to extend quantum effects to the macroscopic level, physicists are working on creating entanglement between a macroscopic and microscopic system. This situation is very similar to that of the entanglement between the quantum state of the macroscopic cat and that of the microscopic decaying nucleus. So far, micro-macro entanglement has been experimentally demonstrated in optical systems, and is currently being pursued in other areas, such as electro-mechanical and opto-mechanical systems.

In a new study published in Physical Review Letters, physicists Roohollah Ghobadi, et al., have proposed a method for generating optomechanical micro-macro entanglement.

One of the most intriguing outcomes of bringing quantum effects to the macroscopic level using this approach is that it could allow researchers to test for wave function collapse due to quantum gravity, which is predicted to occur on a much shorter timescale than wave function collapse due to environmentally induced decoherence.

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