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Friday, January 16, 2009

Resolving A Quantum Paradox with The Atomic Knights


"For nearly a century, the widespread interpretation of quantum mechanics suggests that everything is uncertain until it is observed, and that observation inevitably alters reality," says Professor Steinberg. "However, in the 1990s, a technique known as 'interaction-free measurement' seemed to promise the ability to 'see without looking’. But when Lucien Hardy proposed that one could never reliably make inferences about past events which hadn't been directly observed, a paradox emerged which suggested that whenever one attempted to reason about the past in this way they would be led into error.

Scientists have now combined Hardy's Paradox with a new theory known as weak measurement showing that in one sense, one can indeed talk about the past, resolving the paradox. Weak measurement is a tool whereby the presence of a detector is less than the level of uncertainty around what is being measured, so that there is an imperceptible impact on the experiment.

"We found that all of the seemingly paradoxical conclusions in Hardy's Paradox can, in fact, be experimentally verified," says Steinberg, "but that the use of weak measurement removes the contradiction."

"Until recently, it seemed impossible to carry out Hardy's proposal in practice, let alone to confirm or resolve the paradox," he says. "We have finally been able to do so, and to apply Aharonov's methods to the problem, showing that there is a way, even in quantum mechanics, in which one can quite consistently discuss past events even after they are over and done. Weak measurement finds what is there without disturbing it." link
Ref: Experimental Joint Weak Measurement on a Photon Pair as a Probe of Hardy's Paradox. 2009. J. S. Lundeen and A. M. Steinberg. Phys. Rev. Lett. 102, 020404 (2009)

Strange Adventures #141 (June, 1962). Atomic Knights © DC Comics
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