Researchers build mysterious "Quantum Cats" from light

Results from quantum physics theory that says a particle can exist in two states at once

Quantum science researchers have found a way to manipulate light that could enhance precision measurements as well as computing and communications based on quantum physics theory that's says a particle can exist in two states at once.

According to a paper, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) "repeatedly produced light pulses that each possessed two exactly opposite properties-specifically, opposite phases, as if the peaks of the light waves were superimposed on the troughs."  Physicists call this optical state "Schrödinger's cat" after Nobel Prize winner Erwin Schrödinger who theorized cats existed in both alive and dead states. A "cat state" is a curiosity of the quantum world, where particles can exist in "superpositions" of two opposite properties simultaneously, the organization stated in a release.

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NIST's quantum cat is the first to be made by detecting three photons at once and is one of the largest and most well-defined cat states ever made from light, researchers claimed.

Larger cat states have been created in different systems by other research groups, including one at NIST.  In 2005 NIST scientists said they coaxed six atoms into spinning together in two opposite directions at the same time.  The ambitious choreography could be useful in applications such as quantum computing and cryptography, as well as ultra-sensitive measurement techniques, all of which rely on exquisite control, NIST said.

"This is a new state of light, predicted in quantum optics for a long time," says NIST research associate Thomas Gerrits, lead author of the paper. "The technologies that enable us to get these really good results are ultrafast lasers, knowledge of the type of light needed to create the cat state, and photon detectors that can actually count individual photons." 

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