May 18 (UPI) -- Scientists have built a tiny drum that both vibrates and remains still when struck by a drumstick made of light. The feat blurs the lines between the quantum world and the visible world defined by classical physics.
In the world of quantum physics, an object can exist as both a particle and wave and can be in two places at once. It is a world filled with "spooky action."
But quantum phenomena mostly go unseen -- the invisible tricks have to be measured by sensors. The latest research offers a magnifying glass with which scientists can watch and study quantum physics.
"Such systems offer significant potential for the development of powerful new quantum-enhanced technologies, such as ultra-precise sensors, and new types of transducers," lead researcher Michael Vanner, who studies quantum physics at Imperial College London, said in a news release. "Excitingly, this research direction will also enable us to test the fundamental limits of quantum mechanics by observing how quantum superpositions behave at a large scale."
For several years, scientists have been trying to generate quantum action on a tiny drum using a drumstick made of laser light. They made progress, but kept falling short of their goal.
Using an unconventional approach, scientists in England and Australia finally made a breakthrough. They described their feat in the New Journal of Physics.
"We adapted a trick from optical quantum computing to help us play the quantum drum. We used a measurement with single particles of light -- photons -- to tailor the properties of the drumstick," said Martin Ringbauer from the University of Queensland. "This provides a promising route to making a mechanical version of Schrodinger's cat, where the drum vibrates and stands still at the same time."
The experiments allowed scientists to observe mechanical interferences fringes for the first time, and they could pave the way for a theory that bridges the gap between quantum world and the mechanical world.