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Previous Programs

2018 Agency in the Physical World
Awardees; RFP download

2016 Physics of the Observer
Awardees; RFP download

2015 The Physics of What Happens
Awardees; RFP download

2013 Physics of Information
Awardees; RFP download

2010 The Nature of Time
Awardees; RFP download

2008 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
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2006 Foundational Questions in Physics and Cosmology
Awardees; RFP download

Keith Schwab
California Institute of Technology


Miles Blencowe, Dartmouth College

Project Title

Mesoscopic Mechanical Resonators as Quantum Noninertial Reference Frames

Project Summary

A nanoscale vibrating wire has the remarkable property that the g-forces experienced by an atom or other microscopic particle on its surface are similar to the g-forces on the surface of a neutron star, i.e., about a hundred million times larger than the gravity we experience on Earth! We explore the consequences of these extreme g-forces on the quantum wave nature of atoms that are delocalized (i.e., 'in two places at once'), with one component of their quantum wave guided along a vibrating nanowire and the other component guided along a parallel nanowire that is not vibrating. In particular, we consider what happens to the delocalized atom waves when the vibrating wire is itself behaving as a quantum object, with significant position and velocity uncertainty. We investigate how the quantum vibrating wire might 'collapse' the atom wave, localizing the atom to one or other of the two parallel wires. We explore the significance of this collapse-like behavior as an analogue of the possible fundamental role of quantum gravity in enforcing the classicality of macroscopic everyday objects, ultimately preventing them from being in two places at once.

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