Does order underlie quantum chaos?

chaos-cafeA week without a dose of quantum weirdness? I don’t think so. University of Utah physicists say they’ve found hints that Newtonian-based chaos theory might have something to do with how subatomic particles behave.  Nuclei have a property akin to charge called “spin,” and Utah prof Brian Saam and team zapped xenon atoms to see what happens to that property.

Despite differing initial configurations, the “dances” of the xenon spins evolved so they eventually were in sync with each other…. As an analogy, imagine billions of people in a huge, unfamiliar city. They start walking around in different places and directions, with little conversation among them. Yet, eventually, they all end up walking in the same direction.

Comments Saam: “”That’s never been seen before in a quantum mechanical system. These guys are dancing together.” So? “When you look at all the technology governed by quantum physics, it’s not unreasonable to assume that if one can apply chaos theory in a meaningful way to quantum systems, that will provide new insights, new technology, new solutions to problems not yet known.”

[Chaos Cafe by St_A_Sh]

2 thoughts on “Does order underlie quantum chaos?”

  1. Maybe the author is not old enough, or has not studied the history of quantum mechanics. When a crystal emits a photon, such as a gamma ray, the Mossbauer mode of emission has all the atoms in the crystal behaving as if they collectively emitted the photon. In contrast to the “recoil-free” behavior as described in Wikipedia (, the actual line width can be calculated from the mass of the whole crystal, instead of the mass of a single atom. In any case it is an OLD example of coherent behavior of quantum-mechanical systems, and it is spontaneous, unlike coherent processes such as laser emission.

  2. That is interesting, but even in light of my admittedly limited understanding, it sounds somewhat different from what Saam is describing.

    Always glad to be judged younger than I am…

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