Questions for ‘A new device uses atoms’ quantum weirdness to peer underground’

a pink sky at sunset over a mountain range dusted with snow at the top

A new device uses atoms’ weird quantum behavior to peer through solid ground. This technology could be used to monitor magma beneath these volcanoes or hunt for buried artifacts from ancient cultures.

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To accompany A new device uses atoms’ quantum weirdness to peer underground


Before Reading:

  1. People use the term “quantum” all the time. What do you understand it to mean?
  2. Imagine you needed to know where buried things — such as structures or archeological artifacts —  might lie below ground. How would you go about finding them? What tools would you use?

During Reading:

  1. How does the story define quantum physics? What makes effects in the quantum world different from those in our visible, everyday world?
  2. What are some ways to measure gravity?
  3. How does the new quantum gravity detector work?
  4. In what way does precisely measuring gravity help find underground objects?
  5. How did Michael Holynski and his colleagues test their detector in the real world? What role did a computer model provide for interpreting their findings?
  6. What are two advantages to the new gravity detector over previous systems?

After Reading:

  1. If you were a scientist or engineer who had access to this new gravity detector, what would you use it to search for — and why? Explain which of the new device’s advantages (as mentioned in the story) would make it a particularly good choice for this particular application?
  2. Of all of the potential applications for gravity detectors that you read about in the story, which do you think is most important? Explain your choice.