Snapshot technique helps scientists ‘hear’ the quantum world

When scientists examine very small and swift objects they see the laws of physics working wildly differently than in the everyday “normal-sized” world.

Observing these counterintuitive happenings in larger objects has always been difficult, but University of Queensland physicists – part of an Austrian/UK research team – have created a new technique to make the observation of quantum movement much easier.

The discovery could aid the take-up of quantum physics in new technologies – such as ultra-sensitive motion sensors similar to those in mobile phones – which harness quantum motion’s unusual properties.

Dr Farid Shahandeh, who did his PhD at UQ and is now at Swansea University, said the new technique had similarities to “listening” to a violin by looking at its strings.

“When a musician plays a violin, each string vibrates at a specific frequency to create a specific sound and the combination or ‘superposition’ of all those frequencies creates the music you hear,” he said.

“If you cannot hear the music, just like Beethoven in the last decade of his life, it is extremely difficult to grasp what is being played only by watching the bow’s strokes.

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