Phew! This is a lot of abstract words – so let’s take them step by step. Quantum phenomena are observations made in nature which can only be explained by effects of quantum mechanics. Generally speaking, quantum mechanics gives our nowadays best description of the fundamental processes in nature on very small length scales. This might sound very abstract, but actually a lot of modern technologies rely on quantum mechanical effects. The better and better understanding of quantum mechanics has led to innovations, like for example the satellite positioning (GPS), and it still holds big promises for the future. One prominent technological goal you may have seen in the media is to build a new type of computer which makes use of quantum mechanical effects – the so-called quantum computer. This is currently a very hot topic and already some other of our writings touched upon this. The focus of this text is more directed towards the fundamental aspects because there still exist many interesting open questions as well.
This is the fifth installment of Humans of Physics, a series focusing in the researchers more than in the research, for once.
The first time I entered in the room where the cold atom experiment was, I couldn’t express what I felt… Wires everywhere, optical fibers sending lasers all over the room, a metallic vacuum chamber hidden by a huge amount of copper wire, optical fibers and water cooled magnetic coils… A big mess. My supervisor asked me to have a look inside the vacuum chamber through a thick glass. After five minutes trying to find the right angle I finally saw it. A red bubble surrounded by darkness. This was a billion atoms trapped in the vacuum… I was really impressed.
This is the second installment of our “What is…?” series.
During these months of quarantine, a lot of us have probably thought once or twice that we have been putting on some quarantine-weight. And while that is true (or not, for you, athletic reader) what is actually happening, is that you body is acquiring mass. A somewhat trivial difference, you may say, as weight is just the force inflicted by gravity on to some body. And it strikes me as a funny thing that in our everyday physics, everything comes intuitively to us, force, speed, acceleration, rotation stuff. Everything -but mass. It feels intuitive, but the more you think about it, the more you will end up asking yourself… What is mass?