See Inside February 2005

Atom Chips

Magnetic fi elds on a microchip can produce tiny, coherent clouds of atoms called Bose-Einstein condensates. The chips could have uses in ultraprecise sensors for aircraft and in quantum computing

A century after its conception, quantum mechanics continues to be a disturbing theory. It tells us to think of all matter as waves, and yet in all objects that surround us these matter waves are far too small to be seen. Although the quantum laws are thought to be valid for objects of all sizes--from elementary particles to the universe as a whole--we do not usually see matter waves or any other quantum behavior in our everyday world.

In some subtle way, which physicists still do not completely understand, quantum mechanics conceals its strange effects when many particles interact in a disordered manner or when temperature rises much above absolute zero--that is, whenever things get a little bit complicated, as they usually do in the macroscopic world. As a result, quantum phenomena tend to be associated only with the world of elementary particles and with abstract thought experiments, such as the famous but mysterious Schrödinger's cat, which exists in a quantum state that is simultaneously alive and dead.

This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now!

Select an option below:

Customer Sign In

*You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content

It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on
Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access.

Rights & Permissions
Share this Article:


You must sign in or register as a member to submit a comment.
Scientific American Holiday Sale

Scientific American Mind Digital

Get 6 bi-monthly digital issues
+ 1yr of archive access for just $9.99

Hurry this offer ends soon! >


Email this Article


Next Article