February 28, 2012

SCIENCE: Squeezing What Hasn’t Been Squeezed Before: Scientists Score Another Victory Over Uncertainty in Quantum Physics Measurements.

Over the past few decades, scientists have learned to cheat a bit on the Uncertainty Principle through a process called “squeezing,” which has the effect of changing how the uncertainty is shown graphically. Changing the circle to an ellipse and ultimately to almost a line allows one component of the complementary measurements – the momentum or the position, in the case of an object – to be specified more precisely than would otherwise be possible. The actual area of uncertainty remains unchanged, but is represented by a different shape that serves to improve accuracy in measuring one property.

This squeezing has been done in measuring properties of photons and atoms, and can be important to certain high-precision measurements needed by atomic clocks and the magnetometers used to create magnetic resonance imaging views of structures deep inside the body. For the military, squeezing more accuracy could improve the detection of enemy submarines attempting to hide underwater or improve the accuracy of atom-based inertial guidance instruments.

Now physicists at the Georgia Institute of Technology have added another measurement to the list of those that can be squeezed. In a paper appearing online February 26 in the journal Nature Physics, they report squeezing a property called the nematic tensor, which is used to describe the rubidium atoms in Bose-Einstein condensates, a unique form of matter in which all atoms have the same quantum state. The research was sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

I was going to add some sort of uncertainty-related tagline, but I wasn’t sure which one to use.

Related: IBM Touts Quantum Computing Breakthrough. “Scientists at IBM Research today said they have achieved a major advance in quantum computing that will allow engineers to begin work on creating a full-scale quantum computer. The breakthrough allowed scientists to reduce data error rates in elementary computations while maintaining the integrity of quantum mechanical properties in quantum bits of data, known as qubits.”

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