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Schizophrenic Atom Doubles as Schrödinger's Cat--or Kitten

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Science  24 May 1996:
Vol. 272, Issue 5265, pp. 1101
DOI: 10.1126/science.272.5265.1101


Schrödinger's cat has always been an elusive beast, but physicists may have finally trapped one in the laboratory. In the great Austrian physicist's thought experiment, the fate of a cat was linked to the quantum indeterminacy of a radioactive atom—half decayed, half undecayed. The cat, as a result, was both alive and dead. Now physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, report in this issue ( p. 1131) that they have created what one observer calls a “Schrödinger's kitten,” in which they excite an atom into a superposition of quantum states, then ease those two states apart so that the atom appears to be in two distinct physical locations simultaneously.