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By Alexandra Witze
Physicists have demonstrated behavior
governed by rules of the quantum world,
which operate at the level of atoms, in
mechanical objects large enough to see.
The accomplishment fulfills a long-held dream to bridge the quantum and
everyday worlds. One day, researchers
say, mechanical devices in a laboratory
might be manipulated according to the
rules of single atoms— paving the way
to quantum information processing or
probing other unusual behaviors.
“This is groundbreaking work,” says
Markus Aspelmeyer, a physicist at the
University of Vienna who was not affiliated with the study.
Multiple teams have competed for
years to link the quantum and everyday
realms by building a tiny vibrating device
and draining out as much of its energy as
possible, reducing it to the “quantum
ground state.” Most groups have tried to
do this by building powerful refrigerators
to chill the material down to nearly abso-
lute zero, or zero on the Kelvin scale.
A light proposal with an extra twist
Scientists suggest existence of unsuspected ‘superchirality’
By Alexandra Witze
Light, it seems, can be a lot like Shirley
Temple’s curls: more twisty than anyone
could possibly have imagined.
In a paper to appear in Physical Revie w
Letters, researchers suggest that electromagnetic waves, including light, can possess an excess twistiness beyond what
physicists had ever before speculated.
“There’s this thing in the electromagnetic field that nobody has noticed all this
time,” says Adam Cohen, a physical chemist at Harvard University who led the
work. “That’s what makes it interesting.”
If confirmed, the supertwisty light
might one day have applications in drug
Sending circularly polarized light (green
helix) through left- and right-handed mol-
ecules could probe superchirality.
synthesis, biosensing or other fields.
Cohen’s team studied molecules with
“chirality” or “handedness,” meaning they
come in two forms that mirror each other
like right and left hands. A molecule’s
chirality is detectable only when the sub-
stance interacts with other chiral things
such as circularly polarized light, whose
electric field traces out a helical pattern,
like a Slinky, while moving through space.