Superposition in the Quantum
There’s a term in quantum mechanics called superposition. It’s the idea that two contradictory states can exist simultaneously. For example, if you have an atom in a state of spin up and spin down at the same time, it could be described as being in superposition.
The idea that two contradictory states can exist simultaneously.
In classical mechanics, the state of a system is defined by its position and momentum. When you have an object in your hand, it is at rest or moving with constant velocity. However, if you look at the quantum world, a particle can be in two places at once! This strange phenomenon is called superposition.
The idea that two contradictory states can exist simultaneously is best illustrated by Schrödinger’s cat paradox — a thought experiment about what happens when you put a cat inside a box along with radioactive material (which has some probability of decaying). The radioactive decay will trigger a mechanism that releases poison gas into the box and kills the cat if it happens to occur before we open up the box to see whether or not there really was poison gas released during our experiment. Since no one knows whether an event like this did occur until they actually look inside their containers, this means there are two possible states for any given hypothetical cat: alive and dead (or poisoned).
This is an idea that can be difficult to grasp, but it’s also one of the most important aspects of quantum theory. When we look at the world around us, we tend to see things in black and white — things either exist or they don’t. In quantum physics, however, there are other possibilities.
Particles can be both here and there at once (superposition), and they can even be in two different places at once (entanglement). While some people might find these concepts difficult to wrap their heads around, they are crucial for understanding how things work under the laws of quantum mechanics.
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