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One of the more irksome results of quantum mechanics is the revelation that reality is largely a persistent illusion. Quantum mechanics is not merely a theory of the microscopic: all matter is fundamentally quantum—it just so happens that weird quantum effects are hard to observe in anything bigger than a few atoms. Like the flickering silhouettes on the wall in Plato’s allegory of the cave, the existence of macroscopic, so-called “classical” objects is merely a shadow cast by their true quantum forms. This much is not news to physicists, who have been mucking around in the quantum world for more than a century and are mostly unbothered by the crumbling edifice of reality.

Two new papers published on Thursday in Science push the boundaries of the quantum effects physicists can achieve at a macroscopic scale. Both studies observed such effects in thin aluminum “drums” about the size of a red blood cell. In the first study, U.S. and Israeli researchers directly and reliably measured quantum entanglement between the drums. And the second study, led by a Finnish team, measured entangled drums while avoiding “back action,” the inevitable noise associated with the very act of trying to measure an object’s position and momentum.

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