Manipulating Heisenberg

Guest_Jim_* - March 2, 2012 12:31PM in Science & Technology

A relatively well known concept in quantum mechanics is the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. The inequalities belonging to that name describe how it is impossible to exactly measure certain pairs of characteristics. For example, it is impossible to measure both the position and momentum of a quantum object. This does not stop researchers from trying anyway though.

Squeezing is a way to get around the uncertainty principle by changing of the uncertainty can be graphed. Instead of the area of possible measurements being a circle, it can be made into an ellipse, or even a line-like shape. As long as the area of possible measurements is the correct, the uncertainty principle is happy. Now researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have squeezed some particles further than anyone else has before, and made a measurement never attempted on a system in a squeezed state.

The system of rubidium atoms were entangled with each other through collision, which causes a loss of independence and squeezing. The researchers then measured the nematicity or quadrupole, which is a measurement of the alignment of the atoms. This measurement is important for systems such as liquid crystals and MRI machines. Future quantum computers may benefit from this research as they may rely on storing information in the spin of atoms and their nematic tensor.