The Anomaly Pages



Scientists put something into two places at once. It was rather small: a beryllium ion.

Curt Suplee, summing up their achievement for "Science Notebook" in the May 27, 1996 Washington Post, wrote "For the first time, Schrodinger's cat was out of the bag."

Erwin Schrodinger wrote of a hypothetical situation that pointed up a perplexity in modern physics. He posited that one could put a cat in a covered box it would share with an atom that had a 50-percent chance of decaying at any given instant. If this atom decayed it would activate a switch that would release poison and snuff the cat. But without the act of observation--that is, opening the box--a person would never know whether said feline was alive or dead (a 50% probability in either case). Thus the animal was both alive and dead at the same instant--in theory at least.

The May 24, 1996 issue of Science showed the results of a related test. National Institute of Standards and Technology scientists, in Boulder, Colorado, got and supercooled a beryllium atom. It had only one outer electron instead of the customary two. Laser energy was utilized "to place it halfway between two 'spin' states." Normally, each of these would have the same probability of happening, and be "superimposed." But the scientists then used the laser beams to make each state of spin go the opposite direction.

Amazingly, these states separated, going into two disparate places wider by dozens of times than the atom.

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