Researchers have discovered that the Schrodinger’s cat problem does not require you to look inside the box. This may sound like a lot of gibberish to you, but it has massive implications on the future of quantum computers and our understanding of quantum states.
Understanding the Schrodinger’s Cat Paradox
Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis wanted to explore whether you need to collect data from a quantum system in order to see it’s behavior. Schrodinger’s Cat Paradox is put simply as a famous thought experiment with implications reaching into quantum physics. Simply, it states that a cat inside of a box can either be dead or alive. Without observing the state of the cat inside the box, the cat exists in a state of superposition: being both dead and alive. It is only when we observe the cat inside the box that we understand this state.
This correlates to the quantum world in how quantum particles exist. The reason quantum computers provide us with greater computing power is that bits have three values in the system compared to the regular “on” or “off” or 1 or 0 in normal computers. This third position is a state of superposition. The problem, though, is that in order for data to be read from a quantum computer, we have to observe it, or so we thought, which eliminates this third state of superposition – causing problems. If you’re even more confused than before, check out this video below to help you understand.
Researchers have long wondered how observation apparatus effects the state of a quantum particle. In the quantum world, the act of observation is theorized to drastically affect the state and life of a quantum particle. Due to this, it’s very hard to study quantum effects – all of this drawing back to the Schrodinger’s Cat analogy.
In quantum states, there’s something called the Zeno effect. This essentially states that the lifetime of an unstable atom depends on the measuring apparatus. The Anti-Zeno effect poses the opposite, that the decay of a quantum particle can be affected by the measuring apparatus.
This most recent research demonstrates that the disturbance of a quantum particle causes the Zeno effect just the same as the observation of the quantum particle. Bringing this back into the cat in a box world, we can understand this better. Basically, we don’t need to open the box to see if the cat is dead or alive, we can simply shake the box, or disturb it. If we hear thumps then the cat is dead, if we hear meows then the cat is alive. It might sound morbid, but this is the best way to demonstrate this new research.
Summarizing, the state of the cat is now known to be dependent simply on disturbance, not observation. This new understanding of quantum states may allow us to better understand how to collect data from quantum computers and further our progress on the road to true supercomputers.
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