Quantum mechanics is weird enough as it is, but now scientists are making it weirder.  A device called a quantum microphone, which is the width of a human hair and large enough to see with the naked eye, can exist in two places at once.

This is perfectly normal for individual atoms and other tiny particles.  The life of an atom is inherently unpredictable.  Experts often talk about existing in a superposition, where the atom is everywhere it could possibly be.  “Quantum weirdness,” as they sometimes call it, has irritated scientists for decades, but they’ve come to accept the fact that they can’t do anything about it.

By creating a machine that responds to a single atom, similar to what this quantum microphone does, you’ve created a machine that has to respond to all the possible things the atom could be doing at any given time.  The machine itself must enter a superposition where it exists everywhere it possibly can.

A few months ago, I told you how I’d rather not write about bad guys with guns (even fancy laser guns).  I want the weapons of the future to be stranger than that.  Well, if a large object can follow the laws of quantum mechanics, we could have a whole new kind of warfare.

Imagine spaceships, soldiers, and weapons existing in multiple places at once, their actions impossible to predict because of the uncertainty principle.  One man could become an army by existing in a superposition of all his possible locations in battle.  One ship could be an armada.  One bomb could detonate a million times in a million different places.

Before I can turn this into a story, I have to do more thinking and research.  First of all, how accurate are the reports about the quantum microphone (see disclaimer below)?  Second, how much do we know about atoms in superpositions and how they behave?  And last, how would the military use this technology, and how could someone fight against it?


Sometimes in science, someone will make a major discovery that just seems too good to be true.  Later experiments will fail to produce the same results.  I hope this quantum microphone can be reproduced, because this is an exciting concept.

If anyone hears something more about quantum microphones or other examples of “quantum weirdness” in the visible world, please post a comment on this blog so I can look into it.


Castelvecchi, Davide.  “ ‘Quantum Microphone’ Puts Visible Object in Two Places at Once.”  Scientific American June 2010.  Page 16.

3 responses »

  1. […] Macro Weirdness: “Quantum Microphone” Puts Naked-Eye Object in 2 Places at Once from Scientific American.  I previously referenced this article for my post on Quantum Mechanical War. […]


  2. Casi Nerina says:

    I’m curious if any further information or research has brought anything new to light. If it’s later in the blog I’ll find it, but this topic has me interested.


    • James Pailly says:

      As I recall, the quantum microphone was a big deal for about a year or two, but then it kinda dropped off the radar. Now quantum computers are the most noteworthy practical application for quantum physics, and they are used in some limited capacity by the military.


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