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If you're wondering why the headline isn't a more click bait-like "Listen to the Sound a Single Atom Makes," it's because you won't be able to hear it. In fact, the scientists claim that the noise is the softest sound that is physically possible.
The researchers, from Columbia University and Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology, captured the sound that a single atom makes when it moves by detecting the vibrations emanating from it. Just like you learned at school, vibrations create sound—it's just, in this case, the sound is very, very quiet indeed.
So how did they do it? Well, they excited an atom, then detect its acoustic emissions using a specially made chip that converts miniscule acoustic waves into microwaves.
That sound was a "D-note" about 20 octaves above the highest note on the piano, which is a pitch much higher than the human ear can detect.
The researchers said that manipulating sound on the quantum level may lead to new developments in quantum computing. Sound has a short wavelength and travels 100,000 times slower than light, which means it's much easier to control.
While normal modes are wave-like phenomena in classical mechanics, phonons have particle-like properties as well in a way related to the wave–particle duality of quantum mechanics.