Quantum Mechanics Tackles Mechanics

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Science  08 Nov 2013:
Vol. 342, Issue 6159, pp. 702-703
DOI: 10.1126/science.1245797

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Quantum theory describes the physical cosmos at atomic and smaller scales, but can we apply quantum mechanics to large, distributed mechanical structures? Several recent experiments have shown that we can observe quantum dynamics of nano- and micromechanical oscillators. On page 710 of this issue, Palomaki et al. (1) report the controlled generation and verification of quantum entanglement of a mesoscopic mechanical device (a mechanical oscillator) with an electromagnetic microwave field. Entanglement is considered to be the distinguishing feature that separates quantum from classical physics. Only the properties of the entire system have precise values, and the mechanical resonator and the microwave field must be described by one compound quantum-mechanical wave function. No such wave functions can be assigned to either of the subsystems separately.