Quantum Physics

What is quantum superposition?
Answered by Science Channel
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    Science Channel

  1. Quantum matter can be difficult to study. While physicists have come a long way in the research of this microscopic science, some things are still a mystery because quantum matter can behave so erratically. Einstein's theory of relativity and various other laws of physics tend to fall apart at the subatomic level of quantum physics, because photons -- or tiny particles of light -- seem to change form randomly, and possibly change simply in observation. Niels Bohr, a famous Danish physicist, proposed the Copenhagen interpretation, which revolves around quantum superposition.

    Quantum superposition is the term physicists use to describe the manner in which quantum particles appear to exist in all states simultaneously. Remember, at the quantum level, tiny particles of light called photons appear to change form at random, defying human prediction. In the multiverse theory of parallel worlds, the universe itself is said to exist in a state of quantum superposition. Basically, a theoretical multiverse is composed of infinite universes.

    Recently, scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara, produced the first experiment in which quantum superposition in a visible object was observed. A strip of metal, barely big enough to be seen by the naked eye, was able to both oscillate and not oscillate simultaneously. Of course, while the object could be viewed, the effect could not -- the act of observation would remove the object from superposition [source: Webb]. On a practical level, quantum superposition can be applied to the construction of computer hardware. Basically, researchers are developing quantum memory, in which individual bits can be stored simultaneously as both 0 and 1 [source: Conway].


    Quantum superposition
    This mass spectrometer is one part of an advanced protein microscope developed by George Washington University in 2006. Spectroscopy experiments can provide some empirical evidence for quantum superposition. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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