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Quantum Cheshire Cat experiment splits particles from their properties

When facing a fork in the road, neutrons appear to go one direction and their spins in the other

5:32pm, July 30, 2014

CURIOUS  The Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland can somehow separate its grin from the rest of its body. Similarly, a new experiment appears to detect neutron spins that are disconnected from the particles themselves.

Quantum mechanics has reached Alice in Wonderland levels of weirdness.

An experiment tracking subatomic particles maneuvering past a fork in the road seems to reveal that the particles went one way while one of their intrinsic properties, their spin, went in the other. Although the result conflicts with intuition, it agrees with a decade-old prediction. The phenomenon is called the quantum Cheshire Cat, after the Alice feline whose mischievous grin inexplicably remains after its body has disappeared.

“You can separate basically any property of a particle from the particle itself,” says Jeff Tollaksen, a quantum physicist at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and coauthor of the Cheshire Cat study, which appears July 29 in Nature Communications. While the result defies explanation for now, he says, it could lead to better understanding of the quantum world as well as improvements

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