Kate Travis

Have physicists found a way to save Schrödinger’s cat?

In Schrödinger’s classic thought experiment, the life of a cat in a closed box hangs on the outcome of a quantum reaction in which a piece of radioactive material either does or does not decay to trigger the release of a poison. The catch, of course, is that until the box is opened and the experiment is observed, the cat remains in a state of limbo where it is both dead and alive simultaneously. However, in a new study in Nature, researchers used a supercooled electrical circuit to model an atom with multiple energy levels to show that the life-or-death quantum jump is not quite instantaneous after all; it even comes with warning signs that occur slightly ahead of the jump, allowing the researchers to reverse the process. Good news for Schrödinger’s cat, no doubt, but also for physicists working on quantum computers in which unintended quantum state changes can result in errors, The Guardian reports.

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