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3 Quick and Fun Quantum Physics Principles

by Jacob Marshall 4 years ago in science
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Seriously, it can be fun.

Physics is a vast and often very perplexing subject for even the greatest of minds; for instance, Richard Feynman is quoted in saying, 'If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.' In this article, I will explore 3 of my favourite physics principles in a simplistic, and easy to digest format.

Quantum Superposition

Brace yourselves, this is going to get mind-bogglingly strange, however the concept itself is fathomable and ergo incredibly interesting.

Quantum particles are infamous for their weird reactions and physical properties that make the subject of quantum mechanics very tedious and daunting to many physicists. The basis of Quantum Superposition lies upon the basis of Erwin Schrödinger's cat (yes, cat), in which the idea is best understood. Schrödinger was a brilliant physicist who built many monumental aspects of this branch of physics and, to explain the idea of superposition, he devised a thought experiment in which a cat is placed in a fully closed box with poison (that is released when a radioactive substance emits a particle) and said that there are two possible outcomes: the cat is either alive, or dead. This is due to the fact that one cannot know whether or not the substance will emit a particle to release the poison (as it cannot be observed, so is both emitted and not emitted at the same time, leading to the assumption that the cat also exists in the superposition of both outcomes. This led him to the conclusion that a quanta (in this case the cat) can exist in multiple different states at once, and effectively 'chooses' a state when it is being observed. The premise of this seems impossible, however this accompanies the next principle (wave-particle duality) almost perfectly.

Wave-Particle Duality

You may have heard of the famous double-slit experiment which was at the cornerstone of early quantum theory. This experiment was comprised of single electrons being fired at a fluorescent detector screen through material with two slits in it. Should we apply common sense to this experiment, you would expect to see the mark of an electron in one of two places, depending on which slit the it went through; yet, the experiment gave a rather more intriguing result. Instead of abiding by laws of common sense, the electron patterns actually formed multiple lines (more than the 2 expected) across the detector screen. This meant that the electrons must also act like a wave as it passes through the slits - effectively, in a similar way to superposition, the electrons wave form goes through both possibilities, giving the strange result! This seemingly impossible act of nature is now one of the most important modern discoveries of physics, and for good reason - it disregards any common sense.

Quantum Entanglement

My final, fun physics principle is quite possibly the strangest, yet could be very important for many technologies in the future, so its easy to see why it made the list. The process of entanglement is where two separate, isolated particles (of any distance away) are 'linked' in a way that, when one thing happens to one of the particles, it will instantaneously affect the other, irrespective of the distance between the two! This idea effectively builds on the earlier idea of particles acting like waves, just in this scenario, the wave-forms of the particles are 'joined' as a single wave-form, allowing these instant affects to occur due to both particles effectively acting as one. It does sound crazy, probably because it is, but despite the complex mathematical basis of this, the initial ideas can be somewhat understood.

That's my 3 favourite Quantum Physics principles in, what I hope, has been interesting, understandable, and of course, strange.


About the author

Jacob Marshall

Aspiring Physicist and avid lover of all things science and science fiction!

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