Minuscule jitters may hint at quantum collapse mechanism | Science News

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Minuscule jitters may hint at quantum collapse mechanism

Data match prediction for wave function theory, but more experiments are needed

11:05am, September 1, 2017
illustration of waves

QUANTUM COLLAPSE  Using a miniature vibrating cantilever, scientists are searching for an explanation of how the wave function of a particle collapses to a single place. Excess jittering in the cantilever could provide clues, but other sources of shaking must first be ruled out.

A tiny, shimmying cantilever wiggles a bit more than expected in a new experiment. The excess jiggling of the miniature, diving board–like structure might hint at why the strange rules of quantum mechanics don’t apply in the familiar, “classical” world. But that potential hint is still a long shot: Other sources of vibration are yet to be fully ruled out, so more experiments are needed.

Quantum particles can occupy more than one place at the same time, a condition known as a superposition (SN: 11/20/10, p. 15). Only once a particle’s position is measured does its location become definite. In quantum terminology, the particle’s wave function, which characterizes the spreading of the particle, collapses to a single location (SN Online: 5/26/14

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