(QuantaMagazine) Frank Wilczek, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and winner of the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics, recently posted a new paper with Stockholm University’s Qing-Dong Jiang, that propose a new way to discover unusual and probably useful properties of seemingly ordinary materials by probing a thin aura that surrounds the material, something they’ve dubbed a quantum atmosphere.
A quantum atmosphere, Wilczek explained, is a thin zone of influence around a material. According to quantum mechanics, a vacuum isn’t completely empty; rather, it’s filled with quantum fluctuations. Some of a material’s fundamental quantum properties could manifest in this atmosphere, which physicists could then measure. If confirmed in experiments, not only would this phenomenon be one of only a few macroscopic consequences of quantum mechanics.