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A quantum effect named after an ancient Greek puzzle has been observed in diamond, paving the way for the use of diamond crystals in quantum computer chips.

The quantum Zeno effect gets its name from the Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea, who lived in the fifth century bc and suggested that if the position of a flying arrow is well-defined for a moment of time, then it makes no progress in that moment, and so can never reach its destination.

In the quantum version of the arrow paradox, theoretical physicists posited in 1977 that if a quantum system is measured often enough, its state will be unable to progress, as if it were true that 'a watched pot never boils'. The hypothesis arises from a fundamental postulate of quantum theory, which says that measuring a property of an object, such as its position, affects its state. The quantum Zeno effect was first observed experimentally in 1989 in laser-cooled ions trapped by magnetic and electric fields1.

Now, quantum physicist Oliver Benson and his colleagues at Humboldt University in Berlin have seen the effect in a diamond crystal — a material that would be easier to manufacture on a large scale for quantum computing. The team posted its paper on the arXiv2 and it has been accepted for publication in Physical Review A.

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