Even scientists are only human. That’s why success stories often read like a comic book: great heroes fighting for the good of humanity. From another perspective, however, it sometimes seems more like the nagging of old white men arguing over who is right. We have already seen a few examples of this: Boltzmann and Planck fighting over entropy, Thomson and Rutherford decoding the atom, Newton and the rest of the world racking their brains over the nature of light. And the Stern-Gerlach experiment, which celebrated its hundredth anniversary this month and which is a milestone of quantum physics, was ultimately the invention of a scientist who desperately wanted to be right.
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.
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.