A Quantum-Entangled Tardigrade? Scientists Are Arguing Over Micro-Animals

Rumors of god-like entangled tardigrades were sadly mistaken.
Chris Young
A 3D rendered realistic illustration of the tardigrade.fruttipics/iStock

Why argue over the small things? Well, when the small thing is a tardigrade, it turns out the scientific community can get pretty heated in their discussions.

Take, for example, the recent claim by an international team of researchers that they entangled a tardigrade with superconducting qubits. Scientists and journalists have now grouped together to dispute this claim, according to a new report in Phys.org.

Can you entangle a tardigrade?

The new report points out that scientists have now claimed the international team's experiments didn't involve any type of entanglement whatsoever. Entanglement is a quantum superstate in which two particles are linked and their states cannot be described independently of one another. The phenomenon is at the heart of work by the likes of Google and IBM to develop new quantum computers that will vastly outperform classical computers. 

In their attempts to entangle a tardigrade with superconducting qubits, the international team cooled a tardigrade down to near absolute zero and exposed it to very low pressure. They then placed the incredibly resilient micro-animal on top of two superconducting transom qubits and observed the animal and the qubits to be "coupling". The researchers claimed that this coupling provided evidence that the tardigrade and the qubits were entangled.

Tardigrades are put to the test once again

Unfortunately, claims of a godly entangled tardigrade may be short-lived. Scientists and commenters online have since pointed out that the coupling observed by the original team could have happened with or without entanglement. The tardigrade also was not able to act as a single quantum object, meaning it did not share the same quantum state throughout. The researchers also stated that putting a tardigrade on top of a qubit could, indeed, change its frequency, but that isn't the same thing as entanglement. 

Though the original claims by the international team of scientists have been largely disputed, the new paper did state that the original research wasn't without its merit. During the experiments, the researchers submitted the tardigrades to incredibly low temperatures at pressures as low as 0.000006 millibars for up to 17 days. Once conditions were returned to normal, the tiny creatures were revived and continued to go about their business. So, if the new research didn't provide proof of a tardigrade entangled to a qubit, at least it gave a new indication of the immense resilience of the animals. 

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