Quantum computers bring quantum physics into the spotlight. Because tech giants as Google, IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon are all over them, they are the talk of the town. In addition to scientific journals, daily newspapers and gossip magazines also report on qubits and their friends. Quantum computers are always explained “simply and compactly”. I could also write an article like this, but more specifically, I would like to address the misunderstandings and confusion that such articles often cause. This is not (necessarily) the fault of the authors because no one can adequately explain quantum physics in 5000 characters. Others, however, blatantly sell the quantum computer as a holy grail or Pandora’s box. As so often, the truth lies somewhere in the between.
Schrödinger’s cat is considered the mascot and heraldic animal of quantum physics. Ever since Big Bang Theory, at the latest, it has also been tapping into the living rooms of non-physicists. But as popular as she is, most people don’t really understand what she’s all about. Since Christmas is just around the corner and I strictly reject animal testing, I decided to do it a little differently: Let’s help Santa Claus and find out if a child is good or bad.
When you think of quantum technology, you think of quantum computers. Or science fiction, light sabres and half-dead cats. But quantum technology is more than the chase for the quantum computer. The second quantum revolution is about breaking boundaries and taming nature’s smallest building blocks. What emerges is a superlative technology: smaller, faster, safer, more precise. And not to forget: more incomprehensible.
Quantum technology is on everyone’s lips. Boulevard newspapers report on quantum computers under the factual title “Computers will dominate mankind!” In most cases, quantum technology is presented mysteriously, as a product of the future: science fiction. But one point most articles keep quiet about: Quantum technology already exists and we all have it at home.
Sometimes you have to make a choice. Some things you hate, for example, or you love them. Like Brussels sprouts, marzipan or Big Brother. In other cases, you have to take sides: Cats or dogs, Edward or Jacob, wave or particle. But as unlikely as it may sound, sometimes you can be two things at once. Although when this happens in the very foundations of physics, it can start heated discussions. Like at the beginning of the 20th century when Albert Einstein threw light into a deep identity crisis: wave or particle, which is it?
Is Einstein the father of quantum physics? Although most people associate him with the theory of relativity, Einstein made significant contributions to the development of quantum physics. In fact, he received his Nobel Prize in 1921 not for the theory of relativity, but for his explanation of the photoelectric effect – one of the key experiments in quantum physics. And like many discoveries in physics, this one was pure chance.
In my last article, I explained that, deep down, light consists of energy packets – quanta. These are created, for example, when light interacts with atoms, the building blocks of our world. That sounds very daring and raises many questions, some of them deeply philosophical. And while you are racking your brains about it, one question arises: Who actually thought this up?
A quantum of happiness, a quantum leap in technology, Firefox Quantum. Quanta seem to be present in our lives: they have entered common speech, the newspapers are frequently reporting about quantum computers. Yet hardly anyone outside physics knows what quanta actually are.