Floating Atoms – A New Method for Measuring Gravity

A team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley has found a new way to measure the forces of gravity and the effects associated with these forces. The basis of this method is the measurement of the smallest differences between atoms in a state of quantum superposition, which are held in a “floating” state by laser light inside a vacuum chamber. Researchers from Berkeley believe that this new method in some cases will be more convenient and useful than traditional methods of conducting similar measurements, currently used.

The current standard way to measure gravity and experiment with Earth’s gravity is to drop various objects from a certain height. In this case, the discharge of objects is carried out inside vertical pipes, inside which a vacuum of great depth is created and which are simultaneously a screen blocking the effect of a number of external factors on highly sensitive measuring equipment.

Unfortunately, such methods give scientists the opportunity to observe the influence of gravitational forces only for a fairly short time, in addition, the results of such experiments are often distorted by the unintentional influence of external magnetic and electric fields. The new method allows you to measure gravity in a way in which no falling or moving objects are used at all.

Experiment equipment

To measure gravity using a new method, a cloud of cesium atoms is sprayed inside a small vacuum chamber. After that, using laser light flashes, these atoms are placed in a state of quantum superposition, separated into pairs that occupy fixed positions in space. Moreover, everything is organized so that one atom of the pair is always above the second atom.

The measured value in this method is the value that numerically reflects the wave component of each atom, which, being a quantum particle, has the property of quantum-wave dualism, being both a particle and a wave at the same time. The differences in the measured values ​​of particles located at different distances from the Earth, and allows us to calculate the value of gravity with fairly high accuracy.

Note that the new method of measuring gravity has a number of significant advantages. With its help it is possible to carry out measurements arbitrarily long, thereby raising the accuracy of the obtained values. In addition, the same method can be used not only to measure the forces of Earth’s gravity, but also the forces of gravitational interactions between two particles, such as cesium atoms used in the experiment.

Due to the small size of its vacuum chamber, this chamber is much easier to shield and protect from all possible undesirable external influences. Thanks to this, in the future it will be possible to create a sufficiently portable device that can be used to measure gravity at various points on the earth’s surface and to carry out similar measurements from near-Earth orbit.

In addition to all of the above, a new method of measuring gravity can be an extremely useful tool for scientists involved in the problem of dark matter and energy, and allowing testing of other physical fundamental things, such as the principle of equivalence.