There's a new microscope out there that they're calling a "quantum microscope," and it has me raising my eyebrows in a little bit of skepticism, not that the microscope doesn't exist nor do the things it claims to do, but for its curious resemblance to some now decades' old claims. The articles were spotted by A.S. and T.M., and both spotted the same curious resemblance of the "new microscope" to an "old story". We'll get back to the "old story" in a moment, but we must first understand the "new microscope":
Australian scientists have succeeded in creating a new "quantum microscope," i.e., a microscope that relies on quantum entanglement to see down to very small levels, without using cell-destroying laser light; from the first article:
In a major scientific leap, University of Queensland researchers have created a quantum microscope that can reveal biological structures that would otherwise be impossible to see.
This paves the way for applications in biotechnology, and could extend far beyond this into areas ranging from navigation to medical imaging.
The microscope is powered by the science of quantum entanglement, an effect Einstein described as “spooky interactions at a distance.”
Professor Warwick Bowen, from UQ’s Quantum Optics Lab and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Engineered Quantum Systems (EQUS), said it was the first entanglement-based sensor with performance beyond the best possible existing technology.
A major success of the team’s quantum microscope was its ability to catapult over a ‘hard barrier’ in traditional light-based microscopy.
“The best light microscopes use bright lasers that are billions of times brighter than the sun,” Professor Bowen said.
“Fragile biological systems like a human cell can only survive a short time in them and this is a major roadblock.
“The quantum entanglement in our microscope provides 35 percent improved clarity without destroying the cell, allowing us to see minute biological structures that would otherwise be invisible.
“Entanglement is set to revolutionize computing, communication, and sensing,” he said. “Absolutely secure communication was demonstrated some decades ago as the first demonstration of absolute quantum advantage over conventional technologies.
“Computing faster than any possible conventional computer was demonstrated by Google two years ago, as the first demonstration of absolute advantage in computing.
“The last piece in the puzzle was sensing, and we’ve now closed that gap.
Now, if this sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it is, but we'll get back to that.
But note how the article ends
The research was supported by the United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the Australian Research Council.
Before we get to that "vaguely familiar" thing, there's this slightly more detailed explanation from the second article:
Powerful microscopes have made a quantum leap. Using a quantum trick with light has allowed researchers to examine living cells in unprecedented detail without destroying them, a technique that could improve medical diagnoses and microbiology research.
The microscopes that are generally used to examine living biological systems shine one or two bright lights on their targets, and more powerful light sources allow researchers to see the cells in greater detail. But this approach has a fundamental limit to the precision it can achieve: at some point, a bright enough light will destroy a living cell.
Bowen and his colleagues have found a way to overcome this problem. They used a type of microscope with two laser light sources, but sent one of the beams through a specially designed crystal that “squeezes” the light. It does so by introducing quantum correlations in the photons – the particles of light in the laser beam.
The photons were coupled into correlated pairs, and any of them that had energies unlike the others were discarded instead of being paired off. That process lowered the intensity of the beam while decreasing its noise, which allowed for more precise imaging.
When the researchers tested their system, they found that they were able to make measurements that were 35 per cent sharper than a similar device that didn’t use squeezed light.
“In order to achieve this kind of measurement without quantum correlations, you’d have to turn the intensity up,” says Bowen. “But if you turned up the intensity enough to match these results, you’d destroy the sample, so we’re able to examine things that previously would have been impossible to see.”
Quantum microscopes will also have practical applications, Bowen says. For example, light-based microscopes are often used to determine if cells are cancerous or to diagnose other diseases, and squeezed light could significantly improve the sensitivity of those tests as well as speeding them up, he says. (Boldface emphasis added)
So now let's note what we have:
1) A claim to be able to see to finer cellular levels of detail than any hitherto known microscopy;
2) A claim to be able to do so without destroying a living cell, and thus, to be able to see the effects on a cell, say, of a genetic or nano-scaled therapy;
3) By using a "trick of light" involving photon entanglement, which, the article notes, is a phenomenon known to (and ridiculed by) Einstein;
4) which trick of light lowers beam intensity required to see to such levels by lowering the noise in the beam, or, to put this last point differently, by increasing the coherence of the beam. In this context, it should be noted that coherence of a beam of light is another way of saying "laser".
Now, if this sounds familiar, it should, because essentially these claims are very similar to the claims made by Dr. Royal Raymond Rife in the 1930s. For those unfamiliar with the story, Rife was a doctor who studied at Johns Hopkins whence he obtained his medical degree. The essence of the controversy around Dr. Rife was his claim, in the 1930s, to have invented an optical miscroscope which had to be tuned by him to see a living cell beyond the limits of the best optical microscopes, and even of electron microscopes. Electron microscopes killed the cells that he wanted to see live, and hence his special claims for his microscope. In other words, Dr. Rife was making the same claims as the "quantum microscope", as regards the first two claims above; he claimed (1) "to be able to see finer cellular levels of detail than any hitherto know microscopy", and (2) to be able to do so without destroying a living cell." On the basis of these claims, Rife went on to claim that he was able to find the resonant frequency of a diseased cell, and literally "vibrate" it to death, and using this method, claimed to be able to cure a number of diseases.
Dr. Royal Raymond Rife and his "tunable" microscope
Where Rife eventually ran into trouble was precisely claim number one, the ability to see to resolutions of detail not possible with any conventional optical microscope. But here is where the conventional denunciations of Rife also run into trouble, for Rife did not claim to be able to see this detail via conventional optics, but through the process of "tuning" his microscope (his term) to be able to do so. This led Lt. Col Tom Bearden (US Army, Ret) to speculate a few years ago that what Rife somehow managed to achieve was a quantum effect that that allowed him to see in such detail. By extension of this speculation, and viewing Rife's claim in the light of the University of Queensland's claims, "tuning" his microscope might have meant precisely the tuning of greater signal-to-noise ratios in his optics, in short, to tuning for greater coherence in his beams. Was he in fact utilizing some form of laser light in his microscope?
We will never know, but it is interesting to note that the physics of the laser certainly existed in the 1930s, and even the technology existed to construct a lasing cavity. Indeed, I argued for precisely this point in arguing for I.G. Farben's use of chemical-tunable lasers for laser isotope separation at its so-called "Buna" plant at Auschwitz, a plant that, quite suspiciously, managed to produce no buna in its four years of operation, while consuming more electricity in regular operation than the entire city of Berlin, a fact suggesting the "Buna" plant was no buna plant at all, but an enormous isotope enrichment facility.
Now all this speculation leads to an obvious question: was this an attempt, perhaps, to verify or even to extend Rife's work? Again, I suspect so, but I also suspect this will never be admitted because of the following question:
What happened to Rife's microscope? That's a subject of much controversy, and there are many claims for "Rife machines" out there that claim to be based on his principles and using "electrical principles" to work, in complete contradiction to what Rife actually claimed. In point of fact, such claims are at best questionable and at worst fraudulent, since Rife's laboratory was raided and his microscope confiscated, by medical authorities, and the microscope, notably, has not been seen since. That inconvenient fact means that any machine claiming to be based on Rife's principles simply cannot be so based other than in a broad conceptual sense, since lacking his microscope, we have no detailed understanding of what made it work, or even if it worked. Personally, I think it did work, since Rife was featured in local press stories in California from 1931 onward, and had even been given a banquet of honor by local medical professionals. But Rife was doing this mostly without expensive drug and/or surgical remedies ...
... and in that, of course, there lies yet another (sordid) tale.
But in the meantime, I think it is intensely interesting that decades later, from Australia's University of Queensland and in research sponsored in part by the US Air Force, we now hear a claim about a quantum microscope that, using a trick of light, sounds an awful lot like Dr. Rife's tunable microscope...
See you on the flip side...