Acclaimed, widely-misunderstood physical principle, used by the media to make sci-fi statements about the nature of the universe and computation theory.
Definition. Quantum superposition:
1. (Informal) If an object can be on two (or more) different states of nature, then it can be on several on them at the same time. Interacting with the object to measure its state will destroy such "wonderful" superposition. This amazing effect is only easy to observe in very small systems with current technology.
2. One of the coolest discoveries about Nature ever made.
3. A synonym used by some famous authority figures for ignorance.
The last two due to complexity theorist Scott Aaronson.
Confer Wikipedia for a more rigorous explanation.
1. In a Hydrogen atom, the electron spinning around the nucleus can live in a 'quantum superposition' of the state of minimum energy and the first excited state. If you measure the superposition in the lab, you measure one of the states randomly!
2. In a quantum computer, a bit can be in a quantum superposition of the values '0' and '1'.
3. The famous Schrödinger Cat illustration: an isolated cat in a box where there is a threat that can potentially kill him is in a quantum superposition of 'alive' and 'dead'. Opening the box would collapse the cat to one of these states. This is actually a mnemotechnic to remember definition 1.
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