Skip to comments.Manipulators of the Quantum Realm Reap Nobel Glory
Posted on 10/09/2012 11:43:46 AM PDT by neverdem
The past couple of decades have witnessed a sea change in quantum physics. Previously, scientists relied on the strange rules of quantum theory mainly to explain the odd natural behavior of masses of atoms and other quantum particles such as photons. Increasingly, however, physicists are exploiting those rules to create delicate quantum states of individual particles and to do novel things with them. This year's Nobel Prize in physics honors two experimenters who have helped blaze that trail.
Serge Haroche, 68, of the Collège de France and the École Normale Supérieure, both in Paris, pioneered the sculpting of a quantum state of light and the control of its interactions with a single atom. David Wineland, who is also 68, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, developed techniques for controlling single charged atoms, or ions, and showed how they could be used to perform computations.
Such work has opened up a new realm of quantum research, says Ignacio Cirac, a theorist at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany. "Forty years ago it wasn't even clear that quantum mechanics would apply to single particles because it's a statistical theory," Cirac says. "They opened the door to studying individual quantum systems."
Haroche helped pioneer the field of "cavity quantum electrodynamics," in which particles of light, or photons, are trapped between two mirrors that form a so-called optical cavity. Researchers can precisely tune the quantum state of that light by, for instance, putting it in a so-called Fock state that consists of a definite number of photons but lacks the usual properties of a classical light wave. That state can be probed and measured by sending a single atom through the cavity so that it interacts with the light.
Among other things, Haroche and colleagues demonstrated for the first time an analogue of perhaps the weirdest and best known of quantum states: the Schrödinger's cat state. Quantum theory allows a physical system to be in two mutually exclusive states at once, and in 1935 Austrian theorist Erwin Schrödinger dreamed up a scheme in which this property forces a cat hidden in a box to be both alive and dead at the same time. (As soon as the box is opened, the quantum state "collapses" so that the cat is found either dead or alive.) In 1996, Haroche and colleagues created a similar two-ways-at-once state of light. "It was one of the most exciting experiments I've ever seen and is actually the reason I'm in this field," says Benjamin Varcoe, a quantum physicist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom.
In contrast, Wineland and his team developed myriad techniques to trap and control individual ions. Although trapped ions could be used to make much better atomic clocks, the real attraction of Wineland's work is that it could someday be used to create a quantum computer that would be able to solve certain problems that would overwhelm a classical computer. "David has really come up with all the first big advances in this field," says Winfried Hensinger of the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom.
Ions spin like little tops and, using lasers, researchers can control an ion's spin state, even putting it into delicate two-ways-at-once quantum states. Wineland and colleagues developed techniques to transfer the information in that quantum state to the jiggling of the ion in the electric field that holds it and even to make neighboring ions interact and communicate. Using such techniques, the researchers were able to use a single jiggling ion as a "gate" that performs an elementary operation in logic, as they reported in 1995.
That advance showed the potential to develop a quantum computer in which ordinary bits—which can be set to either 0 or 1—are replaced with "qubits," which can be set to 0, 1, or both at the same time. A full-fledged quantum computer is still years away, but physicists have used as many as 15 ions together to do computations. That's about a quarter of what's needed for a quantum computer to surpass a classical computer for some limited set of problems, Hensinger says.
As with many Nobel prizes, observers say that other researchers might have merited the award, too. In the field of ion trapping, both Christopher Monroe of the University of Maryland, College Park, and Rainer Blatt of the University of Innsbruck in Austria have also made foundational contributions, Hensinger says. In cavity quantum electrodynamics, Jeff Kimble of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and the late Herbert Walther of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have also been guiding lights, Varcoe says.
This year's prize highlights the evolution of quantum physics. In the 1920s and '30s, several Nobel prizes honored the discovery of the principles of quantum mechanics. This year's winners discovered no new principles, but have found novel ways to exploit the established theory, Cirac says. "The theory is the same as we always understood it," he says. "We are now trying to use it" to do new things.
When do they announce that The Disaster has won the Nobel Prize in Economics?
What/whom did Hussein manipulate to win the Nobel Prize?
It would appear that the Physics Nobel Prize involves people of genius.
As for the “Pees,” the “Rediculonomics,” and the “Litter-O-Turd” prizes...well, as Thumper’s mother said, “If you cannot say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
Remember, if Krugman got one...well, ‘tain’t got no smarts in it at all, does it?
A neutron walked into a bar and asked, "How much for a drink?" The bartender replied, "For you, no charge."
Have you heard that entropy isn't what it used to be?
Q: How many theoretical physicists specializing in general relativity does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Two. One to hold the bulb and one to rotate the universe.
Q: What is the simplest way to observe the optical Doppler effect?
A: Go out at and look at cars. The lights of the ones approaching you are white, while the lights of the ones moving away from you are red.
There was an old lady called Wright
who could travel much faster than light.
She departed one day
in a relative way
and returned on the previous night.
When they say things like the cat is both dead and alive at the same time they have obviously left the known, physical world.
Uggh, yet another article that mentions, “Sea Change” without explaining what it means as if it is used in everyday conversation among so called educated liberals.
What would Shakespeare say?
FReepmail me if you want on or off my health and science ping list.
“They opened the door to studying individual quantum systems.”
One of these days, someone will win the prize and the article will talk about superpositions and collapsing states, most will read it and say “What??”.
A small few of us will look at it and say “Hey!!!... they just invented TIME TRAVEL!!!”
Thanks for the post,
Not to mention that if they get to the point where they can manipulate quantum states to a KNOWN, PREDETERMINED OUTCOME, according to Bell’s results we are talking about INSTANTANEOUS INTERSTELLAR COMMUNICATIONS, and this would put the last nail in the coffin for Einsteins conceptions of locality!!
This is possibly as important as Benjamin Franklin flying a kite on a stormy night and getting a shock from the key!
From physicists to physicians:
Five surgeons are discussing who has the best patients to operate on:
The first surgeon says, ‘I like to see accountants on my operating Table Because when you open them up, everything inside is numbered.’
The second responds, ‘Yeah, but you should try electricians! Everything inside them is color-coded.’
The third surgeon says, ‘No, I really think librarians are the best. Everything inside them is in alphabetical order.’
The fourth surgeon chimes in, ‘You know I like construction workers. Those guys always understand when you have a few parts left over at the End, and when the job takes longer than you said it would.’
But the fifth surgeon shuts them all up when he observed, ‘You’re all Wrong. Politicians are the easiest to operate on. There’s no guts, no heart, no balls, no brains, and no spine, and there are only two moving parts - the mouth and the asshole - and they’re interchangeable
(Sorry, couldn’t resist, LOL.)
Thanks for the chuckles!
Always time for a little humor.