Books: Quantum – A Guide For The Perplexed

After reading this book, I realized how much influence quantum mechanics has on everything, since everything is made up of atoms, the building blocks of all matter.  And since all atoms are held together through electromagnetic forces, then this means chemistry and biology can be explained by quantum physics as well. Let me try to convey some of the fascinating aspects of quantum mechanics that Jim points out in his book:

  • The Dual-Slit Experiment: Atoms can behave oddly as particles when we observe them, but when we do not, they function as waves. This experiment I read over and over and it is still not registering completely in my tiny outdated brain.
  • Superposition: This means that an atom can be in two or more states at the same time!! “Quantum mechanics tell us that, until we look, the atom’s wave function will be in a superposition of two “pieces” traveling along both routes at once.”
  • Nonlocality or Entanglement: Suggests that a particle or some parts of it, can remain in touch with each other however far apart they are.
  • Schrodinger’s Cat: He came up with the box and cat theoretical experiment. Imagine we have a box, inside it a cat and a device that contains a lethal poison and a radioactive atomic nucleus. The particle emitted by the nucleus will release the poison inside the box. He claims that until we open the box to check what happened, we can’t say whether the cat is dead or alive or both at the same time!!
  • The Uncertainty Principle: We cannot measure a particle’s speed (velocity) without compromising its momentum. In another words, if we do measure it velocity, we will not be able to know its direction.  It has to be one or the other to know for certain!
  • Quantum Spin: All electrons spin at exactly the same rate and can never slow down or speed up. But in superposition they can spin in both directions either clockwise or anti-clockwise.

These are some general highlights in quantum mechanics, and it is pretty fascinating to see that on the quantum level, the laws of physics must either adapt or change to different laws. It opens the mind in comprehending (or attempting to comprehend) how we might be living in a dimension inside another dimension, not to mention, the whole notion of nothingness where matter can pop in and out of existence for, listen to this slowly and carefully, a thousandth of a billionth of a billionth of a second.  ” Zeptosecond” I am so going to use this term and make it trendy 🙂 It is also interesting to know how the future will be shaped by quantum mechanics, following the spectrum from computers, to lasers and on to nano-technology. So far, without quantum mechanics, there is no such thing as microchips and compact disks, so can you imagine what a super quantum computer will be like!!! If you are patient enough and ready to blow your mind, then I highly recommend this book.

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The Billboard: Jim Al-Khalili

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Video: Jim Al-Khalili – Quantum Life: How Physics Can Revolutionise Biology

Quantum mechanics is a bizarre topic in science, and the many scientists who specialize in this field usually say the same thing about it. Richard Feynman once said” I think I can safely say nobody understands quantum mechanics.” Niel Bohr, who was the father of quantum physics, chimed in and said ” If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” In his speech, Jim Al-Khalili describes how European Robins (the birds) migrate in a direction that might link the way they navigate to the earth’s magnetic fields on a quantum level. Complicated but very thrilling, alluding to understanding biology, chemistry and physics in quantum level. Imagine if he is right! This will shed light on many important fields in the future such as quantum computers, medicine and the origins of the universe. Experiments and tests are still being conducted in this field since it first started in the 1920′s and I think in order to understand quantum mechanics, we have to use our imaginations because in the quantum world some major principles do not necessarily apply. Enjoy!