Researchers confirm Atoms won't move when you're looking at them

By Gabe Carey
Oct 27, 2015
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  1. As a group of Cornell physicists have recently discovered, atoms won't move while observing them. In their tests graduate students Yogesh Patil and Srivatsan Chakram locked a particular gas, consisting of roughly a billion Rubidium atoms, in a vacuum chamber to cool. They then dangled the mass between a set of laser beams, so that the atoms would arrange the same way they would in a crystalline solid.

    Because these atoms are concealed away at such low temperatures, they're able to move around freely by "tunneling" to different positions. This means that when you look at them, they could be anywhere within the arranged lattice.

    But, when researchers would take a look at the atoms, they realized that the tunneling would come to a halt. This is the "Quantum Zeno effect," ladies and gentlemen, and as scientists have discovered, it's very real. The Zeno effect was proposed by E.C. George Sudarshan and Baidyanath Misra at UT Austin in 1977. It was then that it was first suggested that repeated measurements would, oddly enough, bring quantum systems to a pause.

    Previously, the Zeno effect could only be exhibited by spinning subatomic particles.

    "This is the first observation of the Quantum Zeno effect by real space measurement of atomic motion," said Cornell's assistant professor of physics Mukund Vengalattore.

    Additionally, he noted that because of the experiments conducted by he and his students, they've been able to 'tune' the way they look at atoms. This, in turn, allows them to perform 'emergent classicality,' an effect that suppresses the Zeno effect, allowing researchers to proceed with their observations.

    This can allegedly allow scientists to wield the quatum states of atoms in their own favor, leading to the conception of new types of sensors.

    Permalink to story.

  2. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    OMG - another one! Sheesh!!
    darkzelda likes this.
  3. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,370   +2,161

    I used to use this effect to complete my homework when I was a kid. My parent never believed me.

    "You didn't finish this."

    "That's because you're looking at it."
  4. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 3,106   +1,376

    Sneaky shifty atoms.
    RebelFlag and mailpup like this.
  5. mailpup

    mailpup TS Special Forces Posts: 6,964   +355

    Kinda like Groot's dancing sprout.
    Reehahs and cliffordcooley like this.
  6. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 6,335   +1,936

    What if they cranked up the music? Would they see some action then?
  7. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 8,430   +2,822

    Not if they are playing elevator music. If that is what they are doing I wouldn't be moving either.
  8. feathers632

    feathers632 TS Member Posts: 59   +14

  9. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

  10. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 932   +238

    More like the fact that the media knows that most people will take it literally, therefore, it makes for an attention grabbing story.

    I think the link explains it well enough, and the measurement of the polarization of light is an interesting example. If you measure the polarization of light at the same rate that it is being changed, you will not see a change. Makes perfect sense. Yet another quantum "effect" that mathematics explains perfectly, but is difficult to grasp for someone not quite up on the statistical nature of quantum mechanics.
    feathers632 likes this.

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