Ever heard of quantum physics? Although it was discovered about a century ago, this weird branch of physics is still cutting edge today and is responsible for inventions like the microchip, lasers and MRIs. But it's also famous for some of the weirdest, most disturbing and most amazing discoveries in the history of science.
Probably the most popular fact about quantum physics is the observer effect. The famous Double-Slit Experiment shows how a particle fired at a plate with two small openings can produce an interference pattern similar to that of a wave on the screen behind the slits, the particle going through both openings at once. When observing one of the holes, however, to see if the particle goes through it, the interference pattern disappears, and the particle behaves like an actual particle once more.
While objects such as small subatomic particles can exist in an undetermined state before they're observed, the act of observing them is said to actually split the observer in two. For instance in the double split experiment, one version of the observer may see the particle going through one slit while the other observer will see it going through the other. This theory implies that there may be a multiverse in which all possible outcomes are present as parallel versions of the universe.
Since the time of Ancient Greece, scholars have believed that space had to be smooth and infinitely dividable. One awesome fact about quantum physics they didn't know back then, however, shows how the uncertainty principle – saying how the position and momentum of a particle can't be detected accurately – predicts space to be granular, as the fabric of space-time itself breaks down at what is known as a Planck Length, the smallest possible measurement that can be made.
One of the most bizarre facts about quantum physics takes the double slit experiment one step further. By changing the experiment to wait until right after the particle has left the two slits in order to observe it, scientists have noticed that the particle seemingly goes back in time and influences its past self, forcing it so that it “had always been” a particle.
Firing the “photon torpedoes” in Star Trek would be a definite understatement for what would happen if quantum physics wouldn't exist. According to classical physics, the sun should give off continuous rays of light that would vaporize the Earth. Fortunately, as quantum physics shows, light is quantized (existing in small packets of electromagnetic waves), and this property allows it to behave more sensibly.
Modern variations of quantum theory, such as string theory or M-theory, predict that no less than 11 dimensions are required for reality to exist as it does. Abstract and difficult to even imagine, these dimensions are the medium through which tiny strings of energy vibrate at the smallest possible scale to create the particles that make up our universe.
Einstein called it “spooky action at a distance.” The essence of quantum entanglement is that so-called entangled pairs of particles can have opposite, undetermined spin properties, and these are revealed for both of them once you observe one. The spooky part of it is that the act of observing the particle left behind will instantly force its counterpart to adopt an opposite spin, even if they are light years apart, as if bound together by an invisible cord.
I hope you enjoyed my little post about this amazing branch of modern science. Which one of these facts and theories do you find most intriguing?
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