If you are at your desk in the office or at home, you probably have several things on your desktop that seem to stand still to our eyes. However, researchers at MIT say that if one could look at these seemingly stationary objects through a quantum lens, one would see that they are actually made up of moving huge amounts of particles that appear to vibrate. It is very difficult to stop the movement of objects.
Scientists previously developed methods to bring objects to a near standstill using hypothermia. The cooling effect means that atoms almost stand still or are in a scientifically so-called « basic state of motion ». So far, only small objects, such as clouds made up of millions of atoms or objects the size of a nanogram, could be put into a pure quantum state. However, MIT researchers, working with a team of scientists from other organizations, have for the first time cooled a large object on a human scale to close to its ground state of motion.
It is clear to the scientists that the object they are cooling is not tangible in terms of a location, but the combined movement of four separate objects weighing around 40 kilograms. That would mean that the “object” the researchers could cool has an estimated mass of around 10 kilograms and around one octillion atoms. Measurement of the objects used the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and made observations with extreme precision.
Scientists were able to subcool the collective motion of the masses to 77 nanokelvin, very close to the predicted ground state of motion of the object of 10 nanokelvin. Researchers on the project say no one has ever observed how gravity acts on massive quantum states. They demonstrated how to prepare objects on a kilogram scale in quantum states, thus opening the door to the experimental investigation of how gravity could affect large quantum objects. The object cooled in the experiment was the combined movement of all four mirrors used on the LIGO device.
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