Still serving up mysteries to physicists today, quantum physics is a study that has opened portals to worlds previously unimagined. The name “quantum” comes from the Latin, meaning how “great” or how “much”. Building on previous discoveries, Max Plank was the first physicist to discover quantum mechanics after one of his professors had already told him, in the late 19th century, that all of physics had been discovered. What does Plank’s discovery mean to us? We’ll get to that.
What is Quantum Physics?
Wikipedia tells us that, “Quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior of the interaction between matter and energy”. Impossible to see-even under a microscope-but because effects could be observed, Plank had proof of its existence.
Quantum behaviors hard to accept
With Plank’s discovery, all the previously classical structures of matter and energy had to be discarded and new ideas considered. With new quantum experiments, the “Uncertainty Principle” was discovered, and here is where it got interesting. Physicists learned that the velocity of a particle could be measured, and the location of a particle could be determined, but both could not be verified at the same time. This discovery must have given them heartburn! However, one astrophysicist has found a way to make it work for him in his search for E.T..
Probabilities are a Q. M. issue
More than fascinating is the physicist Erwin “Schrödinger’s cat” thought experiment to show how elusive quantum theory is. A cat and a sealed container of poison gas are placed in a sealed box with a Geiger counter. The box is shielded against external radiation. Radiation in the box is can’t be eliminated. If the Geiger counter detects radioactive change, it would be due to particle wave behavior, and the beaker would break to kill the cat. Quantum mechanics, by virtue of the wave-particle duality, says that ultimately the cat is both alive and dead. Sounds like nonsense, doesn’t it? The first person to summarize the experiment was Max Born, who theorized that these elementary particle waves were actually “probabilities”.
You won’t believe this
Scientists wanted to confirm that light is generated in waves using an interference pattern experiment. The experiment proved that light was indeed wave propagated. Still, not complete certain of their conclusion, they wanted to verify it physically. Imagine their surprise when they placed a camera to observe the experiment and found that, instead of waves, light had transformed into individual particles. They drew an astounding conclusion: the scientists themselves had collapsed the wave function simply by observing the experiment.
“It is difficult for the matter-of-fact physicist to accept the view that the substratum of everything is of mental character. But no one can deny that mind is the first and most direct thing in our experience, and that everything else is remote inference,” said Sir Arthur Eddington, who had observationally confirmed Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.
And that’s not all:
· Barcode scanners would not exist without quantum mechanics
· Quantum computers are on their way