Quantum physics (or as some choose to call it, Quantum Mechanics) is a branch of physics concerned with the way energy and matter behave, particularly in relation to molecules and atoms as well as nuclear and other smaller levels of matter.
Physicists themselves have described it as an impossible science because it defies conventional knowledge of cause and effect and relies heavily on probability. It has been described as the science of the ‘very small’.
It revolves around the idea of isolating objects from the surroundings and attempting to study such objects. Now that some objects are too big to be removed from their environments and analysed, quantum science takes place in the world of atoms, molecules and other microscopic elements.
This line of physics became of concern to scientists when it was established that the laws that dictate how larger objects operate do not apply in the same way where microscopic objects are concerned.
The word ‘quantum’ refers to quantity and is derived from the Latin language. In quantum physics, matter and energy can be broken up into discrete units which are not only observed but also predicted. Indeed, everything that exists can be studied in quantum physics. For example, even though one cannot see time and space, quantum physics studies and describes them.
Brief History Of Quantum Physics
Quantum physics has its roots in the early 20th Century when physicists discovered that at the macroscopic and microscopic levels, the laws that govern objects were different. With time, scientists developed more precise methods of measuring matter, and that is when they began to observe unusual trends.
In terms of documentation, though, quantum physics is said to have been spawned by Max Planck who wrote a paper on the subject of black body radiation in 1900. Other experts who played significant roles in the development of this field of inquiry were Niels Bohr, Erwin Schroedinger, Warner Heisenberg and the renowned Albert Einstein.
It is important to note that while Albert Einstein is renowned for his ground-breaking and significant discoveries in science, he was opposed to the tenets of quantum physics. Einstein dedicated a lot of his time to experiments and discourse meant to discredit quantum physics. Credit to him; the proponents of this line of thought put in more research and came up with the discoveries we have today.
The Uniqueness Of Quantum Physics
This field of physics holds that the moment you begin to observe something, you begin to influence the physical activities that take place around it. Waves and articles act in similar ways and may be confused for one another. The movement of matter happens even where there is no intervening space.
Moreover, transmission of information also occurs over infinite distances. The main discovery in quantum physics for most people is that the universe consists of sequences of probabilities.
Some Important Issues In Quantum Physics
It is true that many people find this field of study rather complex especially because of constant reference to unseen matters. For scientists, it may not be much of a problem to visualize the claims of quantum physics, especially because the right technology exists to measure the links between various phenomena.
However, for the general public, quantum physics must be explained in simpler terms if it is to be appreciated. Actually, this area of knowledge is somewhat complex and weird even for the physicists who study it, but this should not imply that it is entirely incomprehensible for those willing to grasp its gist. Here are some fundamental issues that underlie this field:
- Quantum Physics Revolves Around Waves And Particles
Matter has both particle and wave elements and the two natures are mutually existent. It sounds rather weird to have an object that is simultaneously a particle and a wave. In actual sense, quantum physics deals with an object that is not entirely a wave or a particle, but a combination of the two.
The basic unit of quantum physics has wavelength and frequency, thus sharing the characteristic of a wave. On the other hand, the same unit is countable and can be domesticated up to a certain level, which means it shares the elements of a particle. The moment one begins to understand the dual nature of the object of quantum physics; he or she is on the way to understanding what quantum physics is all about.
- It Is Distinct
The very nature of quantum physics implies that it is discrete. All models consist of measurable amounts. For example, light is measure with wavelengths and frequencies, all of which can be quantified. The energy contained in light is similarly quantified based on the wavelength and frequency of the respective light ray.
- It Is Probabilistic
It may sound contradictory or ironical (after learning that quantum physics is discrete) to realise that the same science is probabilistic. In essence, it is not possible to be certain of the outcome of an experiment when using a quantum system. There are many possible outcomes of an experiment and probability is applied when trying to establish the outcome of each attempt.
Even when finding the congruence between theory and practice, it is only through probability that the relationship can be inferred. The final outcome is arrived after carrying out several experiments over some time and trying to find out which one is closest to the expected outcome.
Probability is also applied when trying to conceptualise the existence of particles in multiple states. Any predictions are based on probability. Before any calibrations that would lead to an outcome, the system in question is said to be in intermediate state. In essence, quantum physics is probabilistic in as far as outcomes are concerned.
- The Result Of Quantum Mechanics Are Not Tied To Prevailing Circumstances Only
According to quantum physicists, the result of experiments in this field is non-local. This means that respective results can depend on the characteristics of an object that is far removed from the object being measured. Moreover, one cannot explain these results using the same logic employed when explaining the movement of signals at the speed of light.
However, one should not misconstrue this to mean that one can transmit information at a rate that surpasses that of light. Some experiments were done in the attempt to employ non-locality of quantum mechanics to surpass the speed of light. As would be expected, these experiments did not succeed.
- In Most Cases, Quantum Physics Deals With ‘Smaller’ Objects
One of the unusual things about quantum physics is that whatever it predicts often goes against conventional experiences. The larger the object you study the lesser the effects. In essence, this field of study is concerned with minuscule objects, like particles and wavelengths, all of which diminish as the size of an object increases.
- It Is Real…
Many people, on coming into contact with the assertions of quantum physics, often assume this is an intangible issue – like magic. Simply because one cannot conceptualize waves and particles does not mean that they don’t exist. Similarly, the fact that quantum mechanics works in an almost invisible manner does not mean it is magic.
Quantum physics is ingrained in scientific thought and it supported by definite and infallible laws of nature. Mathematical procedures and methods exist to support the claims of quantum physics. It is also true that human beings can study and exploit the teachings and principles of quantum, physics but this does not make the latter is magic or mysticism.
Application Of Quantum Physics
It is important to understand that quantum mechanics is not just an abstract kind of knowledge. It can and has been used in practical ways to develop technology and items that human beings use every day. This is especially in the electronic and computer world, which is always in flux, thus implying that the quantum science is alive and necessary.
Some of its applications include LED lights, computer monitors, florescent bulbs, MRI scanners, bar-code scanners, semi-conductors, super-conductors, transistors, spectroscopy, digital cameras, fiber-optics, photocopiers, solar cells, DVDs and CDs. Further, it is estimated that developed countries derive 25% of their GDP from quantum science-related activities.
Not Yet Fully Understood
Interestingly, many physicists who have spent time researching on quantum science opine that no one has ever fully comprehended what this area of knowledge is all about. Indeed, Niels Bohr one said that unless one is shocked by quantum theory he or she is yet to understand it.
This assertion should be taken seriously considering Bohr was one of the scientists who first realized that unlike what classical theory had led many to believe, quantum physics was replete with chaos and murkiness, not precision. In other words, this is a field that requires greater inquiry and experiment before any plausible conclusions can be made.
That said, humanity continues to enjoy the marvels of quantum science. While one may not fully comprehend what exactly happens with particles and waves in matter, this does not prevent one from enjoying the benefits of such knowledge.
Your Grace Guru