Three amazing facts about the quantum world

Did you know there are more atoms in a drop of water than stars in the galaxy? These tiny spheres give the oceans their waves and the stars their fire. But what about things that are smaller than atoms? Protons, neutrons, photons, electrons—these particles behave in strange ways, revealing bewildering truths about the universe. Below are three amazing facts about quantum mechanics. Feel free to leave mysteries that peak your interests in the comments section below.

You, the sea, and the stars are waves

Light travels in photons, little particles bouncing around the universe. These packets reflect off mirrors and collide with other particles. But wait, doesn’t light travel in waves? Basic science tells us that different wavelengths appear as different colors. So what is it, particles flying across space or waves radiating through the cosmos? Well, both. It seems that on the smallest of scales, particles exhibit wave-like properties—they are, in effect, the same thing. Scientists call this the particle-wave duality. Though only the tiniest objects display this behavior, it carries far-reaching consequences. You, your house, and the ground you stand on are made of waves.

Quantum Particle Wave Duality Secrets Facts

Neutrons, electrons, and even some molecules display this particle-wave duality. This has led scientists to refer to them as indecisive little bastards.

Seeing is deceiving: the observer effect

At the start of the 20th century, scientists were having trouble explaining a strange phenomenon of light (and as technology came up to speed, electrons). When they shined light through two small slits, a wave-interference pattern—a series of bands—appeared on the wall. This held true to the wave-like nature of light. But when the scientists peered through one of the slits, they observed something quite different. Instead of the pattern they saw two dots on the wall, as though the light had traveled through the slits like particles. This made no sense.

How could the light alter its pattern? Why did looking through the slit change what they saw? The conclusion was inescapable: the act of observing the light forced it to behave like a particle. Called the observer effect, this wonder remains one of the greatest mysteries of science. Even so, the conclusion stands strong—observing the quantum world changes it.

The road to the multiverse

One of the stranger parts of the dual-slit experiment is the collapsing of the wave function. When the light acts as a wave, it shines in bands across the entire wall, but when we look through the slit it appears as a single point. What determines where the dot lands? The light can clearly reach multiple sections of the wall, but the observer effect forces it to choose just one. Or does it?

Multiverise Quantum Mechanics Other Worlds Crazy

Could our universe be just one of many, possibly infinite realities? Scientists and stoners alike have pondered this question for centuries.

According to the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, the light still shines across the wall—just not where we can see it. The theory proposes that observing a quantum event splits the universe into a series of alternate realities in which every possibility is realized. This means that looking through the slit would create a parallel universe for every spot the light could land on—the light would still be shining across the wall, just in different planes of reality. Though the many-worlds interpretation is clearly untestable, it proposes an interesting explanation of one of modern science’s greatest mysteries.

Northern Lights Quantum Particles Beautiful

The particles illuminating the night sky are stranger than you may think. These particles point out that they could say the same about the people who gather to stare at them every night.

So what do you think of the world of quantum mechanics? Does it challenge the way you understand the universe? Let me know in the comments section below! As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday!

Click here to read last week’s post: Five Mind-blowing Secrets of Outer Space

 

Comment question of the week

Which one of these facts or theories is the most mind-blowing? As one of the pioneers of quantum mechanics famously said, “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum mechanics.”

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19 thoughts on “Three amazing facts about the quantum world

  1. this is really good and little easy to understand with all those videos and stuff .but isnt diffraction supposed to happen in a single slit

  2. What would you recommend as among the best primers/books on Quantum Physics for a layman?

    BTW:
    By “best” I mean most easily digested by someone who doesn’t have the mathematical towing-capacity to not get bogged down in all the scientific underpinnings. Maybe abit more of a ‘pop’ science approach for someone with a descent understanding of classic physics, but who still wants abit of insight into the foundational stuff?

    Thanks

    • Hi, Jo,

      Sorry for the delayed response. This is a hard question, as quantum physics is almost all theoretical math. I’d actually go with the Introduction to Quantum Mechanics Wikipedia page to start–it has a lot of mathless or math-light explanations of quantum physics and what is going at the sub-atomic level.

      If you’re looking for something a bit more exciting, I’d recommend picking up Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. The book focuses on both cosmology and quantum mechanics, two of my favorite subjects. It has also been an international bestseller for decades. Let me know what you think.

      Andrew

      • Thanks Andrew
        I also found this book offers great insights into the key historic figures behind Quantum Physics, by offering glimpses into their personal and professional history as they moved closer to answers in this fascinating filed.

        Also not too heavy on the math 😉

        Quantum : Einstein, Bohr and the great debate about the nature of reality
        – Kumar, Manjit.

  3. Pingback: The quantum mechanics in relation to the wave « creativetidalwave

    • Definitely! It’s crazy to think that time and space were created in the big bang. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that there was nothing before it, at least not in the way we think about the concepts of before and after. Thanks for reading!

  4. Actually, there are two universes in which I read your post. In one I clicked the “like” button and in the other I did not. Fortunately we are both in the one in which I did!

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