Forget Schrödinger's Cat: The Latest Quantum Puzzle Is About Three Pigeons In Two Holes

Forget Schrödinger's Cat: The Latest Quantum Puzzle Is About Three Pigeons in Two Holes

For decades, Schrödinger's famous thought experiment involving a cat has been the turn-to illustration of quantum mechanics. But now there's a new quantum puzzle, which asks: Can three pigeons be placed into two pigeonholes with no two pigeons being in the same hole? Prepare for your brain to hurt a little as you read what the researchers describe in the abstract of their newly published paper:

"If you put three pigeons in two pigeonholes, at least two of the pigeons end up in the same hole," is an obvious yet fundamental principle of nature as it captures the very essence of counting. Here however we show that in quantum mechanics this is not true! We find instances when three quantum particles are put in two boxes, yet no two particles are in the same box.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows — through a series of complex quantum calculations that seem fairly impenetrable — that it's possible to put an arbitrarily large number of particles into two boxes without any two particles ever ending up in the same one box.

Right. Yes, that is pretty bewildering — but then, it seems to be for the researchers too. Speaking to PhysOrg, Jeff Tollasken, one of the researchers, explained:

It is still very early to say what the full implications of this research are... But we feel one should expect them to be major because we are dealing with such fundamental concepts.

We can probably expect this new discovery to shape modern thinking about some of the weirder parts of quantum behaviour, like spooky action at a distance. Quite how, though? We'll just have to wait and see.

[Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences via PhysOrg]

Image by Frank Serritelli

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Comments

    This seems relevant:
    http://smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=646#comic

    Oh ok. I think the gist of it is that if you have 3 quantum pigeons and 2 boxes and then study any 2 of them at a time they will always be in different boxes, irrespective of prior positional information.
    Nifty.

    Last edited 22/01/16 6:25 pm

      I like to think of stuff like this in the form of time travel - I know it's not exactly the same but ... yeah.

      If you looked into the future now, the information you received (maybe you saw the lotto results) would change the future, so that if you looked into the same time in the future again (you won the lotto but died of a drug overdose partying it up or something), the results would be different but this new information from the new future would also change the future again.

      Now if you were looking at two different times in the future, you would get two different results depending on the order in which each one was measured. So if you checked two dates, lets call 1 year in the future point A and 2 years into the future point B.

      If you checked Point A first you would change the outcome of Point A, so that when you check Point B the original Point A measurement could be different and you could check that by looking at the history recorded at Point B of the time in Point A.

      If you checked Point B first you could also see the history of Point A which would change the outcome of Point A so that when you measure that point it's different again from the history of Point B.

        Oh, no, I've gone cross-eyed.

      So... I understood your actual post fine, I didn't get the punchline of the comic >>

        Yeah the punchline is pretty weak.
        I was thinking more "addition is wrong" side of things :)

        It's just satire saying how we know nothing of our universe and we assume much to be fact.

    Run an indexing server that is mostly background processes that can only be observed with Administration rights, if you are end user, the background process are both working and not working at the same time. Quantum Computing!!!

    (Then spend an hour with help desk convincing them the indexing is down, and they need an admin to check the server, "No it looks fine on the network, the server is still up, ARGH!!!)

    Reminds me a lot of the Bell experiments, using three entangled items to test deep physics which simply can't be tested using two entangled items.

    Superpositionally all holes are the same hole...so the existance of the holes are differentially uncertain. The possibility the pigeon is in the hole varies as the hole, not the pigeon. The pigeons are in the hole until they are not in the hole.

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