'Quantum ATM' aims to make us all rich

Science-meets-art installation looks to put real cash into a quantum superposition so it can proliferate into billions of accounts, fixing the global economy with quantum cash.

The green uranium-glass core of the ATM is surrounded by a cylinder inscribed with 7 billion boxes, representing the world's "quantum accounts."
Jonathon Keats

If you've spent much time looking into the peculiar world of quantum physics and the notion of a so-called quantum superposition that theoretically allows a particle to be everywhere at once, you've surely thought of some ways that being able to manipulate such properties could be pretty awesome.

In my case, it's the strongest evidence I've found since turning 12 that the Santa Claus I grew up hearing about could actually exist.

But experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats is setting out to put quantum physics to a much more practical use, no matter how impractical the world of finance may find it.

"The problem with the economy is that it's Newtonian," Keats tells Crave in an e-mail. "Over the past century, physicists have learned that the universe is quantum. It's about time that money started following the same laws as everything else in the cosmos."

Next week, Keats will oversee the installation of a quantum ATM in the basement of 20 Rockefeller Center in New York City. He says the self-contained bank will be the first of its kind with the ability to make money quantum and without an observed location, theoretically allowing it to proliferate almost infinitely. Make a deposit in the quantum ATM, and suddenly it's everywhere at once, he explains.

Here's the more detailed explanation of how the device will work:

Anybody will be able to deposit any sum of money at the Quantum Bank. While the deposit is being processed, a uranium-glass sphere will emit an alpha particle into a custom-built cylinder inscribed with seven billion microscopic boxes, each uniquely identified with a single account.

Were this process being monitored, the quantum particle would be observed to pass through only one of the seven billion boxes, crediting the deposit to a single account. However the entire quantum ATM is sheathed in metal, prevented any measurement from taking place. The superpositioned alpha particle will enter all seven billion boxes, crediting all seven billion accounts.

Supported by this quantum bookkeeping technique, the cash itself will effectively be in a superposition.

Keats says the quantum bank has enough accounts to serve everyone on the planet, and anyone can sign up for free and start collecting and withdrawing "quantum banknotes" after a dollar or other real-world currency equivalent is deposited. The notes can then be used wherever they're accepted.

Of course, the problem is that we've yet to hear of anyplace that will accept quantum cash, but I suspect that's not really the point, anyway.

For a more detailed explanation, and to find out if quantum notes could one day be a better investment than bitcoins, join me for a conversation with Keats in a Google+ Hangout on Air Monday, June 10, at 7:30 a.m. Pacific/10:30 am Eastern. You can also watch the live stream via YouTube.

The Quantum ATM is set to be installed and put into service the following day, on Tuesday, June 11.