How can an atom exist in two places at once until observed?


How can an atom exist in two places at once until observed?

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It’s not really “in two places at once”. It’s more that the idea of a thing having a definite position at all is not how the physics of the Universe actually work. Particles aren’t points, they’re smeared-out “clouds” that are just a fundamentally different type of “thing” than the solid objects you’re familiar with day to day. When they interact, they do so in fundamentally random ways – it’s not that it’s in both places, it’s that it *could be* in either, and which one it ends up actually being in is random.

Oof this is a toughy. Quantum Mechanism is notorious difficult to understand even in Lainmens terms. But I’ll try my best.

Atoms don’t really exist in 2 places at once, but rather an atom can take 2 different paths at once and end up at the same point? Confused yet? Good, that’s the point. Quantum Mechanism makes no sense.

Anyways, atoms have no classically defined position at all between measurements. I.E it’s position can’t be calculated with math like almost anything else in the universe because again… quantum mechanics…

We use a tactic called position operators… which kind of is like a coordinate system but for atoms. Don’t ask me to explain further because I really can’t…

Unlike if traditional numbers worked, a position operator doesn’t actually tell us where an atoms is. The atom is neither here nor there, nor anywhere else. The position operator tells us how likely it is that we find the atom at a particular place, if we look. It does not tell us where the atom is.

But when you actually look and find the atom somewhere, the atom is in exactly one place: the place where you found it. It is never in two places at once. However, most of the time (that is, always when you are not looking) it is in no place at all, in a classical sense, as it has no well-defined position.

You still confused? Perfect, being confused about quantum mechanism is the biggest part about understanding it.

It’s like a cat in a box. The cat is both alive and dead until you open the box to observe it

Because that’s the nature of things in the universe.

It’s not “1 thing that exists in 2 places,” it’s “a thing that exists in a constrained set of possible locations, until certain conditions constrain it further.”

Think of a hill made of Jello.

The question of “what is the precise location of the hill” doesn’t make sense because a hill requires multiple locations simultaneously to even have a shape to call a hill.

Now if you interact with that Jello hill, there was a definite location that happened. However, you interacted with it which affects the hill, thus changing its fundamental space it occupies and changing how and where it can interact with something else in the future.