An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: Yale researchers have figured out how to catch and save Schrodinger’s famous cat, the symbol of quantum superposition and unpredictability. In the process, they overturn years of cornerstone dogma in quantum physics. Schrodinger’s cat is a well-known paradox used to illustrate the concept of superposition — the ability for two opposite states to exist simultaneously — and unpredictability in quantum physics. The idea is that a cat is placed in a sealed box with a radioactive source and a poison that will be triggered if an atom of the radioactive substance decays. The superposition theory of quantum physics suggests that until someone opens the box, the cat is both alive and dead, a superposition of states. Opening the box to observe the cat causes it to abruptly change its quantum state randomly, forcing it to be either dead or alive. The quantum jump is the discrete (non-continuous) and random change in the state when it is observed.
The experiment, performed in the lab of Yale professor Michel Devoret and proposed by lead author Zlatko Minev, peers into the actual workings of a quantum jump for the first time. The Yale team used a special approach to indirectly monitor a superconducting artificial atom, with three microwave generators irradiating the atom enclosed in a 3-D cavity made of aluminum. The doubly indirect monitoring method, developed by Minev for superconducting circuits, allows the researchers to observe the atom with unprecedented efficiency. Microwave radiation stirs the artificial atom as it is simultaneously being observed, resulting in quantum jumps. The tiny quantum signal of these jumps can be amplified without loss to room temperature. Here, their signal can be monitored in real time. This enabled the researchers to see a sudden absence of detection photons (photons emitted by an ancillary state of the atom excited by the microwaves); this tiny absence is the advance warning of a quantum jump. The study has been published in the journal Nature.