There is a decent chance that if you have been reading my news items here for a while, you will have read a form of the Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment, as it serves as a good analogy for multiple quantum mechanical phenomena. Now researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have disrupted that and defied the premise of the thought experiment, as New Scientist reports. This was accomplished by a subtle approach only recently made possible by technology.
Though often used to describe superposition, the phenomenon where one particle can have multiple states at the same time, the thought experiment was created by Schrodinger to describe the delicacy of a quantum system. Unlike what happens in classical mechanics, when you measure a quantum system, it actually can change because of the measurement. Superposition and some other phenomena come in as they are among the delicate things that change upon measurement, or at least direct measurement. Instead of measuring the particle directly, the researchers 'gently' measured the oscillation they were using to create the superposition. They also fed back a signal to counter the random noise in the oscillation as a result of their measurement. The result was a means to measure the particle, without it collapsing to a single state.
This discovery could have a great impact on quantum computers as preventing quantum bits, which exist in superposition, is one of the challenges to be overcome. Until then, does this mean I will need a new analogy to describe superposition? We won't know until I have to write one.