Atomic Physics Seminars
Cass Sackett , NIST
[Host: T. Gallagher]
The theory of quantum mechanics applies to closed systems. In such ideal situations, a single atom can exist, for example, in a superposition of being in two different positions at the same time. Real systems, in contrast, always interact with their environment, with the consequence that macroscopic quantum superpositions like Schrodinger's cat are not observed. Moreover, macroscopic superpositions decay so quickly that the dynamics of decoherence can not even be observed. However, mesoscopic systems offer the possibility of observing the decoherence of such quantum superpositions states of the motion of a single trapped atoms. Decoherence is induced by coupling the atoms to engineered reservoirs, where the coupling an state of the environment are under the experimenter's control. We exhibit this with three experiments, finding that the decoherence scales exponentially with the square of the size of the superposition.
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