In a study published in the July 1 issue of the journal Nature, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alex Rimberg and his colleagues describe one example of the microscopic quantum world influencing, even dominating they say, the behavior of something in the macroscopic classical world.
They used tiny semiconducting crystals that contain two separate reservoirs of electrons to explore the different influences of both classical and quantum physics.
“We found that the motion of the crystals is not dominated by something classical like thermal motion, but instead by random quantum fluctuations in the number of electrons tunneling through the barrier; the fluctuations were the size of about 10,000 electrons,” says Rimberg. “But the macroscopic world in this study also influences the quantum world, in that the vibrations of the crystal caused the electrons to tunnel in big bunches, more or less in sync with the vibrations of the crystal.”
I’ve blogged about this sort of thing before. It’s an artificial division that quantum mechanics applies to the world of the very tiny, and classical mechanics applies to the macro world. There’s a transition where the classical mechanics we developed becomes a pretty good approximation, but it’s probably a smooth (if quick) transition. We’re going to continue to find overlaps like this, and quantum effects will continue to wreak their weird (to us) havoc on the world we think we know.