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How gravity suppresses quantum behavior
Quantum theory, the other major discovery in physics in the early 20th century, predicts that the fundamental building blocks of nature show fascinating and mind-boggling behavior. Extrapolated to the scales of our everyday life quantum theory leads to situations such as the famous example of Schroedinger's cat: the cat is neither dead nor alive, but in a so-called quantum superposition of both. Yet such a behavior has only been confirmed experimentally with small particles and has never been observed with real-world cats. Therefore, scientists conclude that something must cause the suppression of quantum phenomena on larger, everyday scales. Typically this happens because of interaction with other surrounding particles.
The research team, headed by Caslav Brukner from the University of Vienna and the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, found that time dilation also plays a major role in the demise of quantum effects. They calculated that once the small building blocks form larger, composite objects -- such as molecules and eventually larger structures like microbes or dust particles -, the time dilation on Earth can cause a suppression of their quantum behavior. The tiny building blocks jitter ever so slightly, even as they form larger objects. And this jitter is affected by time dilation: it is slowed down on the ground and speeds up at higher altitudes. The researchers have shown that this effect destroys the quantum superposition and, thus, forces larger objects to behave as we expect in everyday life.