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Creating a Quantum Superposition of Living Things

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the wanted-dead-and-alive dept.

Science 321

KentuckyFC writes "Having created quantum superpositions of photons, atoms, and even molecules, scientists are currently preparing to do the same for larger objects — namely viruses. The technique will involve storing a virus in a vacuum and then cooling it to its quantum-mechanical ground state in a microcavity. Zapping the virus with a laser then leaves it in a superposition of its ground state and an excited one. That's no easy task, however. The virus will have to survive the vacuum, behave like a dielectric, and appear transparent to the laser light, which would otherwise tear it apart. Now a group of researchers has worked out that several viruses look capable of surviving the superposition process, including the common flu virus and the tobacco mosaic virus. They point out that after creating the superposition, scientists will be able to perform the Schrodinger's Cat experiment for the first time, which should be fun (but less so for the virus)."

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There *is* no virus... (1, Funny)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389717)

ladaladaladalada

There is only... Super Virus! (4, Funny)

spun (1352) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389797)

Seriously, people, anyone who has read comic books knows that strange scientific experiments involving lasers, quantum mechanics and viruses can only lead to an acute case of superheroitis.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389807)

Or zombies.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389879)

Or superzombies.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (2, Funny)

buswolley (591500) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390105)

slashdotters

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1)

defireman (1365467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389877)

Only if you get bitten by it, that is.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (0)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390123)

Seriously, people, anyone who has read comic books knows that strange scientific experiments involving lasers, quantum mechanics and viruses can only lead to an acute case of superheroitis.

Misleading headlines are more likely, though. Virii are not living things.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (4, Interesting)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390493)

Virii is not a word. The plural is 'viruses.'

Whether viruses are life is still a matter of some debate. They have genes, reproduce, and evolve, but have no metabolism of their own and do not reproduce by division. They require a host cell in order to reproduce, but so do some bacteria. It's a fuzzy line.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390531)

Virii is not a word. The plural is 'viruses.'

If that's true, then what are infecting my boxen?

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390611)

Really ? On what basis do you assume that virri are not alive ?

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390141)

The Umbrella Corporation would like to have a word with your and your "superhero" theory.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1)

rattaroaz (1491445) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390243)

When they experiment on humans, call me. It would be crazy NOT to try it!

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (1)

steelfood (895457) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390311)

Tomorrow's /. headline:

Scientists create next superflu via quantum superpositioning.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390401)

Patient: I think I might have the bird flu.
Doctor: Let me run a test.
Patient: No, I can't take the chance it gets any worse.

Re:There is only... Super Virus! (3, Funny)

severoon (536737) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390417)

Great, now I have to hear my doctor say, Um, it seems you completed the full course of antibiotics...but it turns out it only attacked the inert state of your disease. The virulent, flesh-eating superposition continues unchecked.

Viruses don't live (3, Informative)

tsa (15680) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389719)

Viruses are not living things. They have no metabolism and need a host to reproduce. They're basically just packets of proteins containing DNA.

Re:Viruses don't live (4, Insightful)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389823)

Oh please. They're self-replicators in the domain of organic chemicals. They take resources from their environment (i.e. DNA), effectively use those resources for self-replication, and manage to do this with just enough random noise for adaptive mutation to occur.
.
That's more than I can say of certain slashdotters living in their mother's basements. Are you saying that they're not alive?
.
Let the debate begin!

Re:Viruses don't live (4, Funny)

Permutation Citizen (1306083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390033)

Sure. That's why we call them "no-life".

Re:Viruses don't live (2, Insightful)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390075)

You have a point, most of these azoic creatures never reproduce.

Re:Viruses don't live (1)

LitelySalted (1348425) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390095)

Is this the Matrix? Cuz if it is, we're a virus too. And I'm pretty sure that I'm alive...

You know what I can't stand about Slashdot? (5, Funny)

wonkavader (605434) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390341)

The smell, if there is such a thing. I feel saturated by it. I can taste the Slashdotters' stink and every time I do, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it.

Re:Viruses don't live (2, Informative)

tkjtkj (577219) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390131)

By any criteria, viruses are NOT LIVING THINGS!

All the convoluted wording you choose to assemble will never
show otherwise.

viruses are packets of DNA or RNA 'packedup' into envelopes of protein. They are like a letter you'd send to anyone: In fact, totally FREE (un-enveloped) DNA,eg, is found everywhere in nature.. Even yoiur highschool bio class must have shown you pics of stings of dna being drawn into bacterial cells!!

virus DNA, eg, can not only be frozen solid for millions of years, but it can be CRYSTALIZED!
Do THAT to a tadpole, why dontchya!

j. anderson, md
tkjtkj@gmail.com

Re:Viruses don't live. Are you on crack? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390413)

Seriously, just re-read your post.

Re:Viruses don't live (3, Funny)

RandomFactor (22447) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390201)

They're only MOSTLY dead!

Re:Viruses don't live (2, Funny)

Kell Bengal (711123) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390629)

If they were completely dead, all you could do is check their pockets for change.

Re:Viruses don't live (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390273)

I don't think there's much of a debate. It's common consensus that virii sit on the border being alive. They have most of the traits of what is usually defined as being alive, but they don't have all of them. The technicalities aren't terribly important in any context, including the philosophical one, so nobody really bothers.

It's semantics, so debate is pointless (3, Interesting)

Radhruin (875377) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390385)

The definition of life is somewhat squishy, even in Biological fields, but still, technically, viruses are not living as they do not exhibit many traits that living creatures do (eg. homeostasis, metabolism, growth, asexual or sexual reproduction, etc).

In common language, and philosophically speaking, the argument for calling a virus living could be made, but it's all just semantics.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on life and its varying definitions throughout time: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's semantics, so debate is pointless (2, Insightful)

Unordained (262962) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390627)

Wikipedia also has an interesting article on semantics: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantics [wikipedia.org] .

Please stop saying "[just|merely|only|nothing but] semantics" in common language, as they are anything but insignificant, by definition.

that's not the point (0)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389843)

uh? it's not less alive, per-say, than a single celled amoeba or an atom. They didn't say sentient.

Re:that's not the point (3, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390049)

it's not less alive, per-say, than a single celled amoeba or an atom

Wut?

Re:Viruses don't live (4, Interesting)

koterica (981373) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389845)

Parent is correct: Biological viruses are like complex SQL injections that cause the host software to send out copies of the injection code. However, they are not executable on their own.

Re:Viruses don't live (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390151)

Biological viruses REALLY are like computer viruses. Computer ones also cannot execute on their own. They need computers and operating systems.

Re:Viruses don't live (2, Insightful)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390457)

Stop it. Just stop. Don't compare Biology to code. It doesn't work, and only show ignorance in at least one of those, often both.

Re:Viruses don't live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390609)

You're not executable on your own. Vacuum hurts.

Re:Viruses don't live (2, Informative)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389849)

And sometimes RNA. And the case is not the clear. Certainly there are other symbionts and parasites that require a host for reproduction. The problem, as always, is that nature does not behave in the nice, clean way our minds would like.

The researchers who work with viruses disagree (5, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389947)

A lot of the researchers who work with viruses consider them to be alive. See for example this piece by Abbie Smith explaining why viruses should be considered to be alive and why most of the arguments against are not convincing: http://scienceblogs.com/erv/2009/03/ten_five_reasons_clumsy_excuse.php [scienceblogs.com] . The people who argue that viruses aren't alive are almost inevitably non-biologists or biologists who don't work with viruses.

Re:The researchers who work with viruses disagree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390277)

On the other hand, that grad student's blog which you linked to is hardly convincing. The argument against "viruses are not alive" consists of quotes from textbooks which use works like "alive" and "living beings" in the same sentence as viruses. The next three arguments and summarized and dismissed in one sentence. Not a solid argument.

Re:The researchers who work with viruses disagree (2, Insightful)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390615)

Well, those four points that are really two aren't very good points. They don't deserve any more refutation than they received. The first point, that all biologists are in agreement, is demonstrably false. Citing biologists who call viruses alive is more than sufficient to demonstrate it as such. The next three points are all invalid appeals to Occam's Razor. That is "this way is easier, so it's the truth", which is only a good guideline, and you can only use it if the simplest way accurately represents the way things are. A tree is, unfortunately, too simple to represent phylogeny. Take bacteria, for example. A highly amusing quote on the matter is "Bacteria trade genes more frantically than a pit full of traders...". Viruses help them, but they have other means of transfer. So, any argument that viruses have to be included because of "multiple inheritance" issues must necessarily disqualify bacteria. And actually, even higher forms of life can have genes transfered between them due to recombination. Life isn't a tree. It's a weighted, directed acyclic graph. You need viruses on there in some way or other to represent gene transfers across species boundaries. Depending on your definition of "alive" viruses may or may not be. They self-replicate (with help) but have no metabolism. But they have to be on the "tree" of life, there can be no debate. Another poster has called them "mistletoe" on the tree of life. Fairly apt. They connect branches. Without them on there, your "tree" is wrong.

Re:The researchers who work with viruses disagree (1)

Ibag (101144) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390543)

The people who argue that viruses aren't alive are almost inevitably non-biologists or biologists who don't work with viruses.

And the people who argue that HTML isn't computer code aren't web designers. And the people who argue that slashdot isn't interesting aren't slashdot readers. Ok, well, maybe not on the second point, but of course people who work with viruses are going to view their work differently than others will. It makes it sound better from the outside if they could convince people that viruses are alive. I bet you could find robot designers who would try to argue that their creations are alive too. As long as we insist on using vague human languages which have definitions that break down in corner cases (What is alive? Red? Funny?), we're going to have disagreements like this. In the end, it doesn't matter except for people's egos.

Re:Viruses don't live (1)

drunken_boxer777 (985820) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390129)

They're basically just packets of proteins containing genetic material.

Fixed that for you. Not all viruses use DNA as their genetic material; some use RNA.

You are correct in that they do not have a metabolism and need a host to reproduce. This experiment could be conducted on an enzyme for the same effect: Will the enzyme be functional before/during/after the experiment? Obviously a virus is more complicated than an enzyme, but as long as nothing is structurally damaged it will still "work" (or, as these scientists would like to say, "live").

Would the same be true for a bacterium?

Re:Viruses don't live (1)

avandesande (143899) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390297)

Analysis of virus DNA has suggested the viruses evolved from bacterium- quite different than the genesis of a prionic disease.

One possible definition of life (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390527)

An organism is alive when it is so complex that it's impossible to create a completely accurate scheme for how it is transformed when subject to various conditions.

This would satisfy most current popular definitions of life. You cannot completely predict the movements of a human, dolphin or fly when you place a cherry pie next to them. You can however completely predict the movements of a rock when you place a cherry pie next to it. For the "deterministic brain" crowd: Obviously life is a meaningless concept, but the difficulty of predictive determinism would be a handwavingly useful point at which to start measuring it. For the "nondeterministic brain" crowd: This should be a no-brainer (pun intended).

Although in this sense, plants would probably not be defined as "life". I'm not sure whether virii and bacteria would be.

Linux? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389727)

Does this experiment make use of Linux anywhere in its toolchain? If not, the results are as good as useless, as no-one would be able to inspect the source of proprietary crap-ware and check for errors.

Re:Linux? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390291)

Most probably. Most high level science is made on Linux, with "shared" code (not open source, but just because nobody even cares to select a license).

I implore you, (3, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389729)

won't someone think of the viruses? I'm going to pen a letter to the Amercian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Microscopic Organisms That May Or May Not Be Alive immediately!

Re:I implore you, (5, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389973)

Amercian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Microscopic Organisms That May Or May Not Be Alive

The ASPCMOTMOMNBA?

You, sir, need to work on your organization names.

Let me suggest a few:

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Questionable Under Examination To Zoological Life Characterization Organisms Almost This (.) Large.

The SPC-QUETZLCOATL is, of course, dedicated to the humane treatment of viruses, and should not be confused with the SPCQ, which is dedicated to the humane treatment of feathered-serpent redeemer/savior archetypal figures.

Also it should be noted that the (.) in the official name of the organization is a tiny dot in parentheses, not a ASCII boobie, no matter how much you'd like it to be one.

Re:I implore you, (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390639)

... that was brilliant! how long did it take you to get that acronym to work? if i had mode points, you'd be getting a +funny

Re:I implore you, (2, Informative)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390449)

Amercian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Microscopic Organisms That May Or May Not Be Alive

or "NAMBLA" for short.

What if Schrodinger was wrong? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389747)

Will looking in a box for a cat that may or may not exist destroy the universe? Tune in and find out!

Re:What if Schrodinger was wrong? (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389777)

No, else David Copperfield would've done it already.

Re:What if Schrodinger was wrong? (1)

DrMaurer (64120) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390099)

Geraldo Rivera.

What? The joke is 20 years old? Crap.

Hasn't Schrodingers Cat been through enough? (4, Funny)

TheRealPacmanJones (1600187) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389767)

We are still experimenting on this mans cat after all these years? Im surprised PETA isnt all over this...

Re:Hasn't Schrodingers Cat been through enough? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389815)

Are you sure about that? I am pretty sure the cat died years ago, but I haven't checked.

Uh oh! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389773)

The virus will be both dead and alive! So this is how the zombie plague will begin...

Scale to larger living things? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389775)

I'm not certain that this technique will scale to cats.

Re:Scale to larger living things? (3, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389855)

I'm not certain that this technique will scale to cats.

Don't worry, the next step up from viruses are lawyers. Since they have to put them in a vacuum and hit them with a laser, line 'em up and put it on Youtube ... in the name of science!

Re:Scale to larger living things? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390211)

Scientist: We were unable to find any lawyers that were transparent to laser light, so they were all destroyed during the experiment and no superposition was observed.
Scientist: HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Re:Scale to larger living things? (1)

pdabbadabba (720526) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390427)

Don't worry, the next step up from viruses are lawyers. Since they have to put them in a vacuum and hit them with a laser, line 'em up and put it on Youtube ... in the name of science!

Where do I sign up? (But are you sure you want to contend with mutant zombie lawyers on top of the regular ones?)

Re:Scale to larger living things? (1)

GradiusCVK (1017360) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390557)

the next step up from viruses are lawyers

Huh? I certainly hope they tested this on lawyers before they subject some poor virus to a potentially dangerous experiment. Is the ethics committee asleep at the wheel or something?

That's how I pick up chicks (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389779)

At the physics conventions....my best pickup line is always "hey baby, want to go back and create a quantum superposition of living things?"

Re:That's how I pick up chicks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389939)

Then she takes a peek at your ding-a-ling and watches your waveform collapse :(

Re:That's how I pick up chicks (3, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390249)

"This is amazing! I'm coming/not-coming at the same time!"
"Nice try. I observed you ejaculating three seconds into it."

Reckless world-line creation! (3, Funny)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389813)

Since the collapse of the state vector is an illusion caused by the entanglement of the experimenter with the experiment, whereupon the experimenter (now in a superposition of states) can only measure one outcome, this recless creation of macromolecular superpositions will deplete the multiverse's supply of world-lines and immanentize the eschaton. We'll have doppelgangers racing madly through the streets, and it will all end in tears.

Re:Reckless world-line creation! (1)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389917)

Since the collapse of the state vector is an illusion caused by the entanglement of the experimenter with the experiment, whereupon the experimenter (now in a superposition of states) can only measure one outcome, this recless creation of macromolecular superpositions will deplete the multiverse's supply of world-lines and immanentize the eschaton. We'll have doppelgangers racing madly through the streets, and it will all end in tears.

And brains!!!!!

Re:Reckless world-line creation! (2, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389979)

Since the collapse of the state vector is an illusion caused by the entanglement of the experimenter with the experiment, whereupon the experimenter (now in a superposition of states) can only measure one outcome, this recless creation of macromolecular superpositions will deplete the multiverse's supply of world-lines and immanentize the eschaton. We'll have doppelgangers racing madly through the streets, and it will all end in tears.

Close but what's really going to happen is that we are going to put this virus in a superposition where it will enter a world that is parallel to ours. That world will be a virtual utopia ... until our virus hits it. At which point they'll realize that we have just declared germ warfare on them and they will unify to work against the degenerative subpositioned attackers who they have done no harm. After millennia of trying to coexist peacefully with us, we will feel their true wrath and power ... as horrors blink into existence on a subposition to begin the onslaught on us.

Uwe Boll will direct with a nod toward Steven Seagal to play the initial superpositioned virus sent over.

Re:Reckless world-line creation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389991)

Not to mention: And a dog will be seen eating cat food in the land.

Re:Reckless world-line creation! (2, Insightful)

Hythlodaeus (411441) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390299)

That's assuming there's objectively such a thing as a world-line. I favor the view that wave functions are the fundamental reality.

Catch the wave function! (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390359)

So, basically, Coca Cola is the unified field underneath reality?

Re:Reckless world-line creation! (5, Funny)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390411)

Since the collapse of the state vector is an illusion caused by the entanglement of the experimenter with the experiment, whereupon the experimenter (now in a superposition of states) can only measure one outcome, this recless creation of macromolecular superpositions will deplete the multiverse's supply of world-lines and immanentize the eschaton. We'll have doppelgangers racing madly through the streets, and it will all end in tears.

Seems no less reasonable than the wiki writeup on superposition. QM reads to me like high-brow White Zombie lyrics, just words rammed together with no inherent meaning. Stick a few "motherfuckers", "yeahs" and obscure movie quotes in there and I think we'd have it. I'm sure it makes sense to some people but I'd need a contact high to grok it.

THE DEAD HAVE COME BACK TO LIFE!The Hamiltonian gives the rate at which the particle has an amplitude to go from m to n. YEAH! The reason it is multiplied by i AMBIENT SCREAMING SOUNDSis that the condition that U is unitary translates to the condition: YEAH MOTHERFUCKER YEAH! which says that H is Hermitian. The eigenvalues of the Hermitian matrix H are real quantities which have a physical interpretation as energy levels. PSYCHOLOIC SLAG SUCKING JUICE FROM A FALLEN ANGEL If the factor i were absent, the H matrix would be antihermitian and would have purely imaginary eigenvalues, which is not the traditional way quantum mechanics represents observable quantities like the energy.INSANE CLOWN LAUGHTER

Kids today... (2)

chill (34294) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389907)

20+ comments in and no Tron references. Sad.

Maybe they can time this to coincide with the TR2N release?

Re:Kids today... (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390335)

I think once Microsoft co-opted the MCP acronym for their own corporate needs, Tron references became somewhat less than common. End of line.

Time for Schroedinger's cat... (1)

dogganos (901230) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389945)

...to get sick.

Is this necessary? (4, Interesting)

Robert1 (513674) | more than 5 years ago | (#29389981)

I was under the impression that there was nothing to be gained by doing the schrodinger's cat experiment. The idea is that in collapsing the probability wave of any object, the "observer"-object (really anything that the collapsing object interacts with, conciousnes not required!) essentially becomes a superposition of states. This forms an outward expanding wave of super position with the individuals caught within the wave observing it as collapsed and those outside the event observing all those that interact with the superpositions becoming superpositions themselves.

For example scientist-A is in an isolated box and has a cat in an isolated box. The cat is a superposition either dead or alive, is definately one or the other when he opens the box. Let's say for him, the cat is dead when he opens it and that makes him sad. However the scientist-B, outside the larger box which contains scientist-A can now say that the box is filled a superposition of A-with dead cat (sad scientist), and A-with live cat (happy scientist). This is because scientist-B does not know the result of scientist-A opening the box,only that room now contains a superposition of a sad or happy man with a dead or live cat. Only when B opens this larger box does it the superposition of A collapse for scientist B. Now B is in the same position - he is now be a superposition of states of scientist-B seeing sad-man with dead cat, and scientist-B seeing happy-man with live cat. So the idea is that ALL quantum events function in this way. Performing this on any object, be it virus or molecule or cat. Of course because the real world has no such isolation boxes, these wavefronts of collapse and local superposition happen continuously and undetectably.

So what will happen is they'll go through all this difficulty to superpose two states. Then view the virus, seeing it in one state - all the while oblivious that they are now intertwined with that superposition to an outside observer.

Re:Is this necessary? (4, Funny)

clone53421 (1310749) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390023)

To an outside observer, I am now in a superposed state of understanding and totally not understanding your comment...

Re:Is this necessary? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390365)

Quick, somebody hit him over the head with a 2x4 and collapse his probability wave.

Re:Is this necessary? (1)

xmousex (661995) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390575)

im dodging superposition with tldr

Re:Is this necessary? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390483)

You are wrong.

Hint: They now know the a particle of light is both a particle and a wave at the same time.

The method they used to do this is why you are wrong.

Figure it out.

Re:Is this necessary? (2)

locofungus (179280) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390507)

There is a point in doing Schroedinger's experiment in that we don't know if there is a level of complexity above which a superposition cannot form.

It seems crazy that a cat (or a person) can be in a state where an outside observer thinks that they must be in a mixture of dead and alive. Which would imply that at some level QM must break down.

But we do not know what that level is (or even if it exists)

Note that you don't actually have to do the dead/alive experiment. It is sufficient to have the cat (or the person) in a superposition of position in order to do the test. The dead/alive test is merely an extreme case of superposition that is hardest to "just accept that's the way the universe works."

Tim.

Quantum kittens. (1)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390649)

I was under the impression that to detect the superposition you'd have to observe the experimentee having collapsed into one state while evidence exists for something it intereacted with having collapsed into a state that would have been incompatable.

For instance: Schrodenger's cat is a tom and there's a queen in heat in another compartment, with the partition opening between them after the half-death event. Sometimes when you open the box you find a pregnant queen and a tom killed by the machinery that operated before the partition opened.

(But I'm not a quantum mechanic. Perhaps a qualified physicist can vet that statement.)

How do you perform a similar detection for a virus? (And if that's not how you do it with quantum kitty, how DO you detect that the cat was in a superposition?)

Sweet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29389989)

Getting something where we aren't so certain whether it's really alife into a state where we actually aren't so certain whether it's really alife.

Behold the miracles of science. :-)

Parlor Trick? (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390005)

This experiment reeks of philosophic undertones. The liife /vs/ quantum mechanics angle might look good for a grant proposal...but this scenario is sort of a tired on the experimental level.

Schroedinger's cat? (3, Interesting)

kinnell (607819) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390015)

Surely all you need to perform the Schroedinger's Cat experiment for real is a box, a cat and a radioactive substance which decays into a poison. I thought the whole idea of superposition is that the object is simultaneously in multiple states until you observe it, at which point it is in a single state. If they can observe something in different states simultaneously, doesn't that debunk the whole theory? If they can't then what is the point of the experiment? My layman's knowledge of quantum physics is obviously lacking. Could someone explain?

Re:Schroedinger's cat? (4, Interesting)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390183)

No, a real cat and a real box are too tightly coupled to the rest of the world to actually create a superposed state. The common layman's understanding treats a superposition as sort of an "I don't know" state, but that's not accurate. If you made a Schrodinger's cat-killing box, certainly you wouldn't know if the cat was alive until you opened the box, but you wouldn't end up constructing a superposed quantum state.

One consequence of a superposition being a real state (rather than an "I don't know") is that you can perform tests that show an object must have been in a superposed state, beyond simply opening many cat-boxes and observing that half are dead and half are alive. It's fair to call this "observing that the object is in a superposed state", but it conflicts with the quantum-mechanical definition of "observation" that involves collapsing the wavefunction. They certainly can't quantum-mechanical-observe the superposed state directly -- but that's not what they're saying.

Re:Schroedinger's cat? (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390213)

Another issue is that a cat can't be alive and dead, only one or the other. Just because YOU don't know which, doesn't mean that it doesn't, or that reality doesn't. It's arrogant/solipsistic to assume that the cat's state needs you to see it. Solipsism, while interesting to me has never been useful. i'ven't been able to hack the matrix yet. So either reality is real or the matrix is so secure that it might as well be reality.

Let's try it this way. Put a person in a box with the randomly decaying poison. The person inside ticks off the seconds they are alive inside the box. When we open the box, the person will be alive or dead. If they are dead we can check the sheet for the last entry.

It might be easier to have a computer in a box counting, with a shotgun pointed at it. At some random time the shotgun may or may not have blasted the computer. We check the safely secured USB drive for the count showing when the computer died.

Re:Schroedinger's cat? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390619)

Actually, no. It's a common misconception about QM that the 'probability field' is an illusion. It's not that we just don't know yet, it's that /literally/ there exists, at the same time, both states. The double-slit experiment with a single electron proves this. A single electron, when fired at a pair of slits, is actually a 'ripple of probability' rather than a dot. It's a ripple that's wide enough to pass through both slits, and cause interference on the other side. When we observe it, we see it as a single dot, but if you do that a lot, you see that the distribution of electrons really does look like an interference pattern.

In short, it's not just "when you open the box, it immediately reverts to either the cat having died, or not," but rather while the cat is in a superposition, it can actually have an effect on the 'other' reality. I have no idea what would interfere in a macro-object, though. I guess that's why we're experimenting.

Re:Schroedinger's cat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390309)

There's information leaking from the physically imperfect box [if it was a perfect box, you'd be perfectly right]. The experiment is just doing the same thing, but the object (virus?) is theoretically (as we understand physics) is not "observed".

Re:Schroedinger's cat? (1)

locofungus (179280) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390391)

It seems intuitively obvious that a cat will know if it is dead or alive at any point in time. However it is _theoretically_ possible to design an experiment where the cat (to an external observer) must be in a superposition of being dead and being alive unless quantum mechanics breaks down at that scale.

One question that Schroedinger's Cat raises is "Is there a level of complexity that prevents a superposition forming?" and the proposed experiment will extend the upper limit of complexity that we know quantum mechanics applies to.

Tim.

Re:Schroedinger's cat? (1)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390473)

Schrödinger's Cat

A cat is put in a box with a radioactive substance and a radiation detector (such as a geiger counter). The half-life of the substance is the period of time in which there is a 50% chance that a particle will be emitted (and detected). The detector is activated for that period of time. If a particle is detected, a poisonous gas will be released and the cat killed.

Ok, I know that some pre-WW2 German scientists were crazies, but what a Nazi experiment.

Wrong field (3, Funny)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390021)

With the Schroedinger cat you didnt know if it was alive or dead in the physical experiment. But biology has decided yet if virus are alive to start it? What will be the next thing they will use for this test? a meme?

Re:Wrong field (3, Insightful)

sbillard (568017) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390423)

I could be wrong, but I think the point of the experiment is to learn where and how quantum aspects interface with macro-objects. A virus is much larger than a photon, for example. If they can reproduce "delayed choice" and "quantum eraser" type effects on a virus, then that would really be something.

It's not a test to see whether something is alive or dead. It's a test to understand if and/or how "which-path" observations collapse the wavefunction for macro-objects,

IANAP, so please enlighten me if I missed the point.

Re:Wrong field (2, Funny)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390481)

Sir, we have chosen YOU to be the star of our next experiment. Being the oldest Slashdotter still not officially declared completely dead, you fit perfectly! Please sign here. Oh, and here... It's just a minor thing about getting frozen and then ripped apart by a giant laser. Nothing that should distract you. Here, a new /. article for you! *takes out his tiny victim-catching net*

Not the worst thing for the poor little virus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29390039)

It could be sent on a virused space mission.

Terrible idea (4, Funny)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390079)

I can see it now...

Me: Tell me Doc, do I have HIV?
Doctor: Well, yes and no.

Re:Terrible idea (2, Funny)

canajin56 (660655) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390303)

Absurd. By testing, the doctor would have collapsed the wave form. Thus opening him up for malpractice suits. "By preforming the test, the doctor altered the outcome."

Fascinating (2, Interesting)

Taibhsear (1286214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390247)

But what will doing this show? I'm not a physicist, although the topic in very interesting to me. I sort of understand why it is useful in quantum computing but what effect would this have on the virus? Would it interact with other matter/organisms differently? Would it return to its normal state upon removal from the vacuum/cold or would it stay in this quantum superposition? What are the applications of this research aside from recreating Schrodinger's cat (they aren't nicknaming the virus the T-Virus are they...)?

Re:Fascinating (1)

jythie (914043) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390343)

I am sure someone will try to rewrite the proposal to describe how it can be applied to oil exploration.

Quantum zapping (1)

Merdalors (677723) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390487)

Great! Now we're going to infect another dimension with our viruses... Just what they need...

Just What We Need (3, Funny)

monopole (44023) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390535)

Schrodinger's Flu!

ShroÃdinger (2, Interesting)

Rhaban (987410) | more than 5 years ago | (#29390645)

Shroedinger's point with the cat experiment was to explain how stupid it would be to take the quantum model for something that could work at human scale.

Too bad people took it seriously, as if the quantum model was more than what it is: a model.

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