Let’s be honest here; quantum mechanics is confusing. It is all about tiny particles as it applies to things of all sizes, including plants, birds, or even people.
In textbooks on standard physics, quantum mechanics refers to the microscopic world theory. While it describes molecules, atoms, and particles, it also explains classical physics about microscopic scales on planets, people, and pears. A frontier where the classical physics’ familiarity begins, and the quantum behavior’s strangeness lies between pears and molecules.
The Universe’s Deepest Secret
Regardless of how hard physicists research, they still perplex over the universe’s deepest secret – the quantum world.
Individuals interested in the smallest things should know that they are not just extraordinarily ill-behaved; they live in the quantum world.
These particles are like subatomic baseballs. They can spread out the same as waves, like the ripples found on a pond.
These entities do not follow similar rules as the object that humans hold see, or feel. Instead, these subatomic bits of matter are strange and ghostly. In some instances, they behave as clumps of matters. They are found anywhere, but the certainty of seeing one of them in a specific place is zero.
While scientists can predict that these particles exist, they never know their exact location. In other words, the quantum world does not work the same as how our world around us works.
The Quantum Predictions and Recipe
According to quantum theory, the behaviors of things, like energy or particles, belong on the smallest scale. The theory predicts that particles can be found in various places at one time or tunnel through walls.
When measuring the photon’s location, it may be found in one place or somewhere else. Unfortunately, no one knows the specific area where it is.
This theory also helps scientists show how pairs of particles are links even if they are on the opposite side of the universe or different sides of the room. If particles are connected that way, they are referred to as entangled. So, for example, scientists can entangle photos that are about 1,200 kilometers so far. Today, they want to stretch the proven entanglement limit further.
Several experiments verified the quantum predictions’ accuracy. For example, engineers build lasers using their photon behavior discoveries. Plus, the invention of transistors is also due to the knowledge about electrons’ quantum behavior.
When engineers build devices, they follow the rules. However, they do not entirely understand those rules. So, it’s no surprise why many people consider quantum theory as a recipe.
For example, if someone cooks with complete ingredients and follows the necessary steps, he will have a meal. However, in quantum theory, someone builds technology by following a recipe even without knowing how the food ingredients change as they cook. Thus, while a good meal is produced, the way the ingredients make that food taste good is still unexplainable.
The Cat Problem
Quantum theory helps scientists’ best idea present how the subatomic world works. Moreover, that idea is according to good evidence. After all, a scientist has been spending their time and life studying and using the theory for a century. They even use “thought experiments” to describe it.
In 1935, Erwin Schrodinger, an Austrian physicist, performed a thought experiment through a cat. He imagined a cat within a sealed box with a device that releases poison gas. Once that gas is released, the cat would die. The probability of gas being released is 50%.
One must open the box to see the cat’s status, either dead or alive. However, if the cat behaved the same as quantum particles, things become stranger.
For example, photons can be waves and particles. So, the cat can be dead and alive at the same time. This experiment is called superposition by physicists. As long as no one opens the box and check it, the cat would not be dead or alive. In other words, the cat’s fate relies on the act of experimenting.
The Particles Entanglement
Quantum theory also includes other incredible ideas like particles entanglement.
For example, a person and his friend have two coins with a magical-like connection. Once heads show up, the other one always shows tails. Even if they flip the coins several times, the result remains the same: one shows heads, and the other shows tails.
Just like those coins, entangled particles work the same way. For example, a physicist entangles two photons and sends one to a laboratory in a different city. If that physicist measures how fast the photon moves, he immediately knows similar information about the other photon. These two particles behave like they send signals instantaneously even if they are separated from each other.
However, that idea caused another problem. If entangled particles send signals to each other instantly, the message tends to travel faster than the speed of light, which is the universe’s speed limit.
Scientists in China have come up with a new record of particles entanglement. First, a satellite is used to entangle about six million pairs of photons. Then, that satellite beaned the pairs to the ground, where one pair is sent to one of two labs that are 1,200 kilometers apart. Every pair remained entangled. So, when one pair is measured, the other pair is affected immediately.
Today, engineers and scientists work on various methods to utilize the idea of entanglement to link particles over longer distances. But, on the other hand, the rules of physics hinder them from sending signals more quickly than the speed of light.
The answer to “what a subatomic particle is” might still be elusive, but most physicists are contented with not knowing. Even if they do not understand the quantum theory, they still work with it. They follow the recipe, from ingredients to steps, even without knowing why and how it works.
So, why bother? If we spend all of our time understanding the quantum theory’s foundations and how we live in a quantum world, other people will only think we are a little odd. However, being bothered by the truth lead to discoveries.