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Superposition Found Over Hundreds of Miles

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 02:08PM

When the topic of quantum mechanics comes up, most people likely envision particles and waves on the nearly infinitesimal stage of single atoms. While these is typically where one can look and find the counter-intuitive phenomena of quantum mechanics, the truth is the effects are not limited to that small stage. Researchers at MIT have analyzed data concerning neutrinos that travelled some 456 miles (735 Km) and found they maintained a superposition of states throughout the trip.

Superposition is the very counter-intuitive phenomenon that allows a particle to exist in multiple mutually exclusive states at the same time. For example, a coin tossed in the air could rotate in both clockwise and counter-clockwise directions. In this case the coin is a particle known as a neutrino, and a great many of them are made at a facility near Chicago, and some of them travel to a detector in Soudan, Minnesota, 456 miles away. Neutrinos come in many flavors, and this is what the MIT researchers decided to look at with a modified form of the Leggett-Garg inequality. This inequality is used to determine if a system is acting in a quantum mechanical or classical way, because correlations between measurements of the system will differ, depending on the system's behavior. What the researchers found is that the distribution of neutrino flavors falls within the predicted range of a quantum system, which had almost no overlap with a classical system.

This discovery represents the greatest distance quantum mechanics has ever been observed, and it is perhaps not surprising it involves neutrinos. These particles very rarely interact with the environment and travel at relativistic speeds, near the speed of light. This causes time to dilate for them so much that from their perspective, they last for a brief instant, further protecting their quantum state.

Source: MIT

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