Quantum physics explained by Stranger Things

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Physics also has its parallel universe, its alternative dimension, its alternative reality, its upside down world like the most popular Netflix series, “Stranger Things”. But let’s start with some explanations about the discovery of thIS fundamental field.

Quantum physics, or quantum mechanics -it’s the same thing-, is the theory that describes the world of the infinitely small, it is the physics that applies in the field of atoms and elementary particles.

©StrangerThings – Netflix

The laws that govern it are completely different from those we are used to.

The world described by quantum mechanics is extraordinarily bizarre. But of all the scientific theories available, it is the one that works best! Prediction after prediction, it has proven to be correct.

And it is a fundamental theory! We are made of molecules, which are themselves made of atoms. Quantum mechanics is not only a theory for atoms, it is the theory that describes all our reality!

©StrangerThings – Netflix

It is thanks to this theory that we have invented, among others, computers, smartphones, LED screens, nuclear power plants, USB keys, lasers.

To understand how it was developed, let’s jump back 100 years. At that time, researchers understood that light is both a particle -the photon- and a wave -which we call electromagnetic wave-. In the years that followed, they wondered if it was the same for matter.

The (historical!) experiment which will prove to them that indeed, the matter also has two ways of being is the experiment known as the double slits:

Imagine a wall pierced with two slits, behind this wall, a sensor. With an electron gun, we send an electron on the pierced wall. To the great surprise of researchers, the electron does not touch the sensor located just behind one of the two slots. They realize that the electron has crossed both slots at the same time, as if it had dispersed …

What the physicists understood in front of this experiment, it is that the electron had behaved like a wave. By passing through two slits at the same time, the wave divides, forms several peaks which combine or cancel each other, which forms approximately this drawing there on the sensor…

©StrangerThings – Netflix

These waves are not physical waves, they are a kind of probability clouds. Indeed: we cannot say where and in which state the electron is, we can only predict where and in which state it could be. This means that it is in several places at once, in several states at once.

This uncertainty that governs the quantum world disappears, disappears on a larger scale. As soon as we observe the probability cloud of an electron, everything happens as if it was obliged to choose a speed, a position, a state… and it then “becomes” a particle.

There is nothing magical about this. It is simply because our measuring instruments are made of many atoms, and that these many atoms interact with the electron wave which, thus disturbed, loses its coherence as physicists say and becomes a vulgar particle.

From this fundamental principle of quantum physics, called “wave-particle duality”, derive equations that imply some very counter-intuitive things. The strangest of all is quantum entanglement. The equations of quantum mechanics state that if, at any given time, two particles are so close and so mixed that they share their properties – they are then said to be entangled – they will have some sort of “effect” on  each other, even though they are separated by thousands, millions, or billions of miles.

If we measure the properties of one of these particles and find that it is rotating clockwise, this will automatically affect the other particle (since observing it forces it to choose a position), which will then rotate counterclockwise.

Researchers have built experiments and proven this prediction to be true! They even used this incredible property to teleport particles…

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