Ever wished you could be in two places at the same time? New research shows that atoms can do just that.

Have you ever thought how useful it would be to be in two different locations at the same time? Out shopping, for example, and still in bed? Or what about being ‘down the pub’ and at the cinema?

Whilst such feats might be impossible for us, latest research from the University of Hull and the University of Bonn shows that atoms are capable of behaving in just this way.

Dr Clive Emary from the Department of Physics and Mathematics explained: “Unlike people, atoms obey the laws of quantum mechanics and this doesn’t require them to commit to being in a single place at any given time.”

The new experiments studied a single caesium atom trapped by laser beams.  By controlling the lasers, the atom was made to enter into what physicists call a superposition state, in which the atom becomes “smeared out” and ceases to have a definite position.

Dr Emary added: “Whilst this strange superposition property of quantum theory has been known for a very long time, these new measurements allow us for the first time to rule out all less crazy-sounding explanations. They make it very hard to escape the conclusion that the atom really was in two places at once”.

The research was published this week in Physical Review X and was featured in the American Physical Society’s “Physics: spotlighting exceptional research“.

Ideal Negative Measurements in Quantum Walks Disprove Theories Based on Classical Trajectories
Authors and affiliations:
Carsten Robens1, Wolfgang Alt1, Dieter Meschede!, Clive Emary2 and Andrea Alberti1

  • 1Institute for Applied Physics, University of Bonn
  • 2Department of Physics and Mathematics, University of Hull

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