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The first lab-created 'quantum abacus'

02 February 2023
A new study reports the first experimental creation of a quantum potential with energies given by sequences of prime numbers

Do you want to know whether a very large integer is a prime number or not? Or if it is a 'lucky number'? A new study by SISSA, carried out in collaboration with the University of Trieste and the University of Saint Andrews, suggests an innovative method that could help answer such questions through physics, using some sort of 'quantum abacus'. By combining theoretical and experimental work, scientists were able to reproduce a quantum potential with energy levels corresponding to the first 15 prime numbers and the first 10 lucky numbers using holographic laser techniques. This result, published in PNAS Nexus, opens the door to obtaining potentials with finite sequences of integers as arbitrary quantum energies, and to addressing mathematical questions related to number theory with quantum mechanical experiments.