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June 9th, 2009
A group of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently came a step closer to figuring out where the boundary lies between the quantum and classical physical worlds, and their discovery has big implications for the future of quantum computers— which would have much faster and more powerful processors than our computers do today.
The field of quantum mechanics deals with the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles. In this world, the rules of classical physics seem to go right out the window. Particles can be in two places at the same time (called superposition) and generally act in ways you'd never expect to see in our everyday world. One of the strangest phenomenon in quantum mechanics is called quantum entanglement, where two or more particles are "entangled" and an action performed on one effects the others. (This would be sort of like having an object on Earth and another on the moon, and if you did something to the one on earth it would instantly affect the one on the moon.) Once entangled, the two particles stay inextricably linked. Quantum entanglement is so strange, in fact, that Einstein called it "spooky action at a distance."
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