Quantum mechanics applies to objects that can be seen by the naked eye

The UC Santa Barbara researchers seen below "have provided the first clear demonstration that the theory of quantum mechanics applies to the mechanical motion of an object large enough to be seen by the naked eye."

Andrew Cleland, Aaron O'Connell, and John Martinis. Photo: George Foulsham

In a paper published in the March 17 issue of the advance online journal Nature, Aaron O'Connell, a doctoral student in physics, and John Martinis and Andrew Cleland, professors of physics, describe the first demonstration of a mechanical resonator that has been cooled to the quantum ground state, the lowest level of vibration allowed by quantum mechanics. With the mechanical resonator as close as possible to being perfectly still, they added a single quantum of energy to the resonator using a quantum bit (qubit) to produce the excitation. The resonator responded precisely as predicted by the theory of quantum mechanics.

Bob Harris says: "What's the real-world application? No one knows, although cats should start avoiding any box they could become trapped in."

UCSB Physicists Show Theory of Quantum Mechanics Applies to the Motion of Large Objects


  1. . . .avoiding any box they become trapped in? If they had avoided it in the first place, maybe they wouldn’t be trapped in it? :D

  2. I put a quantum on a cat a few years ago. Poor thing couldn’t figure out which direction to run.

    1. You contaminated the experiment, then. When I quantized a cat, it ran in all directions at the same time.

  3. This is cool, but why don’t superconductors and superfluids count as a visible demonstration?

  4. In a related experiment, they placed the mechanical resonator in a quantum superposition, a state in which it simultaneously had zero and one quantum of excitation. This is the energetic equivalent of an object being in two places at the same time. The researchers showed that the resonator again behaved as expected by quantum theory.
    Beware, you will and will not have a cat!

    1. Some of the energy that constitutes your mind is now hopelessly entangled with some of the energy that forms the content you read. Therefore, yes, your reading the article has changed the quantum state of its content. Just pray they don’t shut that content server down …

  5. “Wait, by reading the article, have I changed its content?”

    No, but you can’t know the location of the letters in the article and the speed at which you’re reading them with absolute certainty.

  6. Anon: superconductors and superfluids don’t count as demonstrations of macroscopic objects in a superposition of states. Those are all in the same state.

    This paper got a standing ovation at a recent conference. We physicists know cool when we see it.

  7. “…[the leading physicists of our time] do not believe quantum theory says anything about the role of human consciousness in the physical world. They see quantum laws as simply a useful mathematical formulation for describing subatomic phenomena that are not adequately handled by classical physical theory, although the latter remains quite satisfactory for the analysis of physical events at the macro-level.”
    – Arnold S. Relman, M.D., 1998

    In your face!

    1. While this experiment definitely shows that macroscopic objects can be in a quantum superposition of states, it doesn’t say anything about the idea of the ‘quantum mind’ (which remains a fringe idea). Moreover, that quote is a little suspect. As awesome an achievement as it is, I don’t think most ‘leading physicists’ would be all that surprised that it is possible to get a macroscopic object in a quantum superposition.

  8. I think the 3 polarized lens demonstration is probably the easiest quantum mechanics experiment visible to the naked eye.

  9. What’s missing for me to understand the importance is what did it do differently to the predictions of classical physics?

  10. “While this experiment definitely shows that macroscopic objects can be in a quantum superposition of states” – haven’t read the original paper, so maybe this is explained there, but in the article linked, all it said was that they had done it: it didn’t say (unless I missed it through not understanding) *how* they proved that it was in a superpositioned state. How did they establish that?

  11. If you put a male cat and a female cat inside a box, what is the chance of getting a third cat in the next 6 months?

  12. http://quantum-mechanics.co.uk/

    Zero point energy (also known as vacuum energy) is based on quantum mechanical theories which state that empty space (the vacuum) contains an enormous quantity of untapped energy called zero point energy. What this essentially means is that even at absolute zero temperature, energy still exists.

  13. I’ve written on my study something about philosophical repercusion of quantum mechanics. You can read this on my blog: inderterminism of quantum physics

    The is another art about Bell’s Theorem, but unfortunatelly page is in polish language so use the google translate

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