One of the most famous mind-twisters of the quantum world is the thought experiment known as ‘Schroedinger’s Cat’, in which a cat placed in a box and potentially exposed to poison is simultaneously dead and alive until someone opens the box and peeks inside.
Scientists have known for a long time that an atom or molecule can also be in two different states at once. Now researchers at the Stanford PULSE Institute and the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have exploited this Schroedinger’s Cat behavior to create X-ray movies of atomic motion with much more detail than ever before.
The first test of this idea, at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) X-ray laser, created the world’s most detailed X-ray movie of the inner machinery of a molecule – in this case, a two-atom molecule of iodine. The results, based on an experiment led by SLAC staff scientist Mike Glownia, were reported in a paper that’s been posted on the arXiv online repository and accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters.
More information: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory