Science fiction is weird. Sometimes it gets very weird, but that’s only because real science is weirder. Here are some examples.
- Light is both a particle and a wave. That’s pretty weird, but it gets worse. Protons and electrons and basically everything in the universe are both particles and waves.
- These particle/waves can exist in more than one place at the same time so long as no one is observing them. In fact, so long as no one’s observing them they can do all kinds of crazy things. The subatomic world is throwing one wild party, but you and I aren’t invited.
- Two particle/waves can become entangled, meaning whatever one does the other does the opposite. Albert Einstein called this “spooky action at a distance” because there is no speed of light delay, not even if the particles are light-years apart. How can one possibly know what the other is doing?
Fortunately, quantum mechanics, the branch of science that covers this weird stuff, only applies to things that are really, really small. You don’t have to worry about it in your everyday life… yet.
In the last decade or two, scientists have made major breakthroughs, proving that quantum weirdness can affect objects large enough to see. Work has already begun on quantum computers, computers with parts existing in two places at once, allowing them to do more simultaneous calculations. One company claims to have already built a quantum computer, but their claim is open to debate.
Thanks to our knowledge of atoms and molecules, we can study DNA, make plastic, and find the best materials to conduct electricity. I should also mention nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Imagine what our world will be like if quantum weirdness becomes just as ordinary. It would be much stranger than science fiction.
Not convinced quantum mechanics is taking over the world? Come back for Friday’s post. I’ll provide links to several articles on quantum mechanics and how it applies to the world you can see and touch.