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Macroscopic superpositions require tremendous measurement devices

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Skotiniotis Michalis, Dür Wolfgang, Sekatski Pavel,
Project Quantum metrology and macroscopic quantum states
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Quantum
Volume (Issue) 1
Page(s) 34
Title of proceedings Quantum
DOI 10.22331/q-2017-11-21-34

Open Access

Type of Open Access Publisher (Gold Open Access)


We consider fundamental limits on the detectable size of macroscopic quantum superpositions. We argue that a full quantum mechanical treatment of system plus measurement device is required, and that a (classical) reference frame for phase or direction needs to be established to certify the quantum state. When taking the size of such a classical reference frame into account, we show that to reliably distinguish a quantum superposition state from an incoherent mixture requires a measurement device that is quadratically bigger than the superposition state. Whereas for moderate system sizes such as generated in previous experiments this is not a stringent restriction, for macroscopic superpositions of the size of a cat the required effort quickly becomes intractable, requiring measurement devices of the size of the Earth. We illustrate our results using macroscopic superposition states of photons, spins, and position. Finally, we also show how this limitation can be circumvented by dealing with superpositions in relative degrees of freedom.