NS 2759: Seven wonders of the quantum world (series) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627596.

000-seven-wonders-of-thequantum-world.html et seq. * 05 May 2010 by Michael Brooks [Comments added.] From undead cats to particles popping up out of nowhere, from watched pots not boiling--sometimes--to ghostly influences at a distance, quantum physics delights in demolishing our intuitions about how the world works. Michael Brooks tours the quantum effects that are guaranteed to boggle our minds. 1. Corpuscles and buckyballs 2. The Hamlet effect 3. Something for nothing 4. The Elitzur-Vaidman bomb tester 5. Spooky action at a distance 6. The field that isn't there 7. Superfluids and supersolids And finally: Nobody understands Michael Brooks was the Science party candidate for the constituency of Bosworth in the UK general election this week 1. Corpuscles and buckyballs IT DOES not require any knowledge of quantum physics to recognise quantum weirdness. The oldest and grandest of the quantum mysteries relates to a question that has exercised great minds at least since the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Euclid: what is light made of? History has flip-flopped on the issue. Isaac Newton thought light was tiny particles--"corpuscles" in the argot of the day. Not all his contemporaries were impressed, and in classic experiments in the early 1800s the polymath Thomas Young showed how a beam of light diffracted, or spread out, as it passed through two narrow slits placed close together, producing an interference pattern on a screen behind just as if it were a wave. So which is it, particle or wave? Keen to establish its reputation for iconoclasm, quantum theory provided an answer soon after it bowled onto the scene in the early 20th century. Light is both a particle and a wave--and so, for that matter, is everything else. A single moving particle such as an electron can diffract and interfere with itself as if it were a wave, and believe it or not, an object as large as a car has a secondary wave character as it trundles along the road. That revelation came in a barnstorming doctoral thesis submitted by the pioneering quantum physicist Louis de Broglie in 1924. He showed that by describing moving particles as waves, you could explain why they had discrete, quantised energy levels rather than the continuum predicted by classical physics. De Broglie first assumed that this was just a mathematical abstraction, but wave-particle duality seems to be all too real. Young's classic wave interference experiment has been reproduced with electrons and all manner of other particles (see diagram).

and a cat is in the box with the atom and the vial. p 697). p 680). or our brain's reconstruction of photons hitting our retina. This is the picture that gave birth to Schrödinger's infamous cat. All that leaves a fundamental question: how can stuff be waves and particles at the same time? Perhaps because it is neither. conducting an experiment with an initially undecayed radioactive atom in a box. a task way beyond our engineering capabilities. recently." he says. Each state has a probability attached that is encapsulated in a mathematical description known as a wave function. Quantum physics would slap you down. you might dispute that statement. or "superposition". This madness is a logical consequence of the Schrödinger equation. the formula concocted by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1926 to describe how quantum objects evolve probabilistically over time. 2. Over time. At other times. All we know is that tests with larger and larger objects--including. the atom chooses--in a manner in line with the wave function probabilities--which state it will reveal itself in." Armed with common sense and classical physics. . they boil faster. Is the cat both dead and alive as long as we don't know whether the decay has occurred? We don't know. The Hamlet effect A WATCHED pot never boils. admittedly. Take the decaying atom: observing it and finding it undecayed resets the system to a definitive state. as long as you don't look. with a buckyball--a soccer-ball-shaped lattice of 60 carbon atoms that. of decayed and undecayed states. According to the Schrödinger equation. Quantum watched pots do refuse to boil--sometimes. for example. is large enough to be seen under a microscope (Nature. and the wave function "collapses" to a single determined state. vol 401. Its de Broglie wavelength is something like 10^-38 metres. a resonating metal strip big enough to be seen under a microscope--seem to show that they really can be induced to adopt two states at once (Nature. vol 464. At yet other times. "Wave and particle are then just constructs of our mind to facilitate everyday talking.We haven't yet done it with a macroscopic object such as a moving car. at about a nanometre in diameter. who did the buckyball experiments in 1999. Imagine. and making it do wave-like things such as diffract would mean creating something with slits on a similar scale. though. says Markus Arndt of the University of Vienna. observation pitches them into an existential dilemma whether to boil or not. and the Schrödinger-equation evolution towards "decayed" must start again from scratch. the wave function evolves as the probability of the decayed state slowly increases. The weirdest thing about all this is the implication that just looking at stuff changes how it behaves. at any point after you start the experiment the atom exists in a mixture. What we call an electron or a buckyball might in the end have no more reality than a click in a detector. As soon as you do look. Austria. The experiment has been performed. Suppose the radioactive decay of an atom triggers a vial of poison gas to break.

vol 41. As Pankovic puts it: to be decayed or not-decayed. 3. If space were ever truly empty. provided they kept re-measuring its energy (Physical Review A. it's different: there.The corollary is that if you keep measuring often enough. it would contain exactly zero energy at a precisely defined moment in time something the uncertainty principle forbids us from knowing. proposed last year by Vladan Pankovic of the University of Novi Sad. You can't. deduce the exact position and momentum of a particle simultaneously. the system will never be able to decay. Where a quantum object has a complex arrangement of states to move into. looks around a bit. A similar uncertainty relation exists between energy and time. decides it . empty space is actually fizzing with short-lived stuff that appears. which essentially says the more we know about some things in the quantum world. The third trick is the "quantum Hamlet effect". they will move towards each other. This possibility is dubbed the quantum Zeno effect. p 040402). Serbia. after the Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea. with a dramatic consequence. The more certain we are of where a particle is. researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder. "that is the analytically unsolvable question". Two plates with an area of a square metre placed one-thousandth of a millimetre apart will feel a force equivalent to just over a tenth of a gram. "The Casimir effect is a manifestation of the quantum weirdness of the microscopic world. a decay into a lower-energy state can be accelerated by measuring the system in the right way. something comes of nothing and moves the furniture around. this too was observed in the lab (Physical Review Letters. In 1990. It follows that there is no such thing as a vacuum. Specifically. p 2295)." King Lear admonishes Cordelia in the eponymous Shakespeare play. In the quantum world. mind. the less we know about others. for instance. Something for nothing "NOTHING will come of nothing. can affect a system in such a way as to make the Schrödinger equation for its subsequent evolution intractable. the less certain we are of where it is heading. According to quantum field theory. if you place two uncharged metal plates side by side in a vacuum. And the quantum Zeno effect does happen. It has to do with the quantum quirk known as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The Dutch physicist Hendrik Casimir first noted this minuscule movement in 1948. In 2001. A particularly intricate sequence of measurements. who devised a famous paradox that "proved" that if you divided time up into ever smaller instants you could make change or motion impossible. he found. showed they could hold a beryllium ion in an unstable energy configuration rather akin to balancing a pencil on its sharpened point. The converse "anti-Zeno" effect--making a quantum pot boil faster by just measuring it--also occurs. Colorado. seemingly without reason. They won't move a lot." says physicist Steve Lamoreaux of Yale University. vol 87.

half the time there is a photon-triggered bomb blocking one path (see diagram). so if it is the ghostly copy that gets blocked by the bomb. If such a thing existed in the classical world. might explain the Casimir effect. all in the name of preventing the universe from violating the uncertainty principle. p 170). vol 74. p 4763). For the most part. The secret is a device called an interferometer. In 1961. and their effect on free electrons in metal plates. vol 457. the Casimir effect is big enough to be a problem. it could cause components in close proximity to stick together. you would never even be aware of it. We know this because. p 987). "You can't ascribe the Casimir force solely either to the zero point of the vacuum or to the zero point motion of the atoms that make up the plates. vol 23. physicists at the University of Vienna. "Either view is correct and arrives at the same physical result. According to a scheme proposed by the Israeli physicists Avshalom Elitzur and Lev Vaidman in 1993. Thanks to the uncertainty principle.doesn't like it and disappears again. the electric fields associated with the atoms in the metal plates also fluctuate. . In nanoscale machines. had brought it to life--not by setting off bombs. think of a photon entering the interferometer and taking one path while a ghostly copy of itself goes down the other. It exploits the quantumly weird fact that. Only the real photon can trigger the bomb. Russian physicists showed theoretically that combinations of materials with differing Casimir attractions can create scenarios where the overall effect is repulsion. a wave-like interference pattern is produced (see "Quantum wonders: Corpuscles and buckyballs"). where the two paths cross once again. given two paths to go down. you stand a better chance. Austria. 4. blowing you to kingdom come. The Elitzur-Vaidman bomb-tester A BOMB triggered by a single photon of light is a scary thought. In other words. at the far end of the device. Or they might not." says Lamoreaux. With quantum physics." Whichever picture you adopt. this stuff is pairs of photons and their antiparticles that quickly annihilate in a puff of energy. In Elitzur and Vaidman's thought experiment. Evidence for this strange "quantum buoyancy" was announced in January 2009 by physicists from Harvard University who had set up gold and silica plates separated by the liquid bromobenzene (Nature. a photon will take both at once. To visualise what is going on. for example. we have "seen" the bomb without triggering it. but by bouncing photons off mirrors (Physical Review Letters. These variations create tiny attractions called van der Waals forces between the atoms. Any photon entering your eye to tell you about it would already have set off the bomb. The tiny electric fields caused by these pop-up particles. Barely a year after Elitzur and Vaidman proposed their bomb-testing paradox. you can use quantum trickery to detect a light-triggered bomb with light--and stay safe a guaranteed 25 per cent of the time (Foundations of Physics. The way to avoid that might be simply to reverse the effect. there is no explosion--and nor is there an interference pattern at the other end.

even if they are light years apart. used a similar technique to show that you could get an image of a piece of an object without shining light on it--something that could revolutionise medical imaging. He calculated a mathematical inequality that encapsulated the maximum correlation between the states of remote particles in experiments in which three "reasonable" conditions hold: that experimenters have free will in setting things up as they want. Or is there really an influence that travels faster than light? Cementing the Swiss reputation for precision timing. is a serious blow to our conception of how the world works. meaning something. p 949). physicist John Bell of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. quantum mechanics regularly violates Bell's inequality. p 861). it will be weird. yielding levels of correlation way above those possible if his conditions hold. and that no influence travels faster than the speed of light. the cosmic speed limit. showed just how serious. quantum physics does at least retain some semblance of classical decency: to deliver a sensible answer. Are the properties of quantum particles not real--implying that nothing is real at all. thinking it proof that quantum theory was seriously buggy. Take a doughnut-shaped . That pitches us into a philosophical dilemma. This "spooky action at a distance". "It would be very useful for something like X-ray scanning. Do we not have free will. somehow predetermines what measurements we take? That is not anyone's first choice. vol 439. Shuichiro Inoue and Gunnar Bjork of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. 5. In 1964." says physicist Richard Jozsa of the University of Cambridge. the speed of transfer of quantum states between entangled photons held in two villages 18 kilometres apart was somewhere above 10 million times the speed of light (Nature.In 2000. in 2008 physicist Nicolas Gisin and his colleagues at the University of Geneva showed that. 6. Spooky action at a distance ERWIN SCHRÖDINGER called it the "defining trait" of quantum theory. Switzerland. It is entanglement: the idea that particles can beed in such a way that changing the quantum state of one instantaneously affects the other. the computer does need to be switched on (Nature. not just popping up at the time of measurement. in Einstein's words. As the team that implemented his idea in 2005 showed. Welcome to quantum reality. As many experiments since have shown. that the particle properties being measured are real and pre-existing. Josza is the brains behind perhaps the most eye-rubbing of such tricks: using a quantum computer to deliver the output of a program even when you don't run the program. Einstein could not bring himself to believe in it at all. Sweden. The field that isn't there HERE'S a nice piece of quantum nonsense. if there were no radiation damage to the tissue because no X-rays actually hit it. Whatever the true answer is. vol 454. if reality and free will hold. but exists merely as a result of our perception? That's a more popular position. but it hardly leaves us any the wiser.

it is a liquid and its atoms become ruled by their quantum properties. So what is going on? The Aharonov-Bohm effect is proof that there is more to electric and magnetic fields than is generally supposed. vector potentials were considered just handy mathematical tools--a shorthand for electrical and magnetic properties that didn't have any real-world significance.magnet and wrap a metal shield round its inside edge so that no magnetic field can leak into the hole. At room temperature. or field-sensitive capacitors and data storage buffers for computers that crunch light. set the bowl spinning. Set the liquid itself moving. p 1443). The Aharonov-Bohm effect showed that the vector potential makes an electromagnetic field more than the sum of its parts. exposure to gamma rays. The wave associated with the electron's movement suffers a jolt as if there were something there. That influence was seen unambiguously for the first time in 1986 when Akira Tonomura and colleagues in Hitachi's laboratories in Tokyo. it becomes super-fun Superfluid helium climbs up walls and flows uphill in defiance of gravity. Werner Ehrenberg and Raymond Siday were the first to note that this behaviour lurks in the Schrödinger equation (see "Quantum wonders: The Hamlet effect "). measured a ghostly electron jolt (Physical Review Letters. vol 48. Close to absolute zero. Take helium. but their result remained unnoticed. There is no field in the hole. right? Wrong. for example. so the electron will act as if there is no field. or inhale it and talk in a squeaky voice. helium is normal fun. It squeezes itself through impossibly small holes. Japan. You also have to take into account the properties where it isn't. for example. it's quantum theory that gives you superpowers. It flips the bird at friction: put superfluid helium in a bowl. As it turns out. working at the University of Bristol in the UK. At room temperature. Casting about for an explanation. it becomes super-fun: a superfluid. physicists decided to take a look at a property of the magnetic field known as the vector potential. You can't calculate the size of the effect on a particle by considering just the properties of the electric and magnetic fields where the particle is. 7. the vector potential still exerts an influence. There. though. Superfluids and supersolids FORGET radioactive spider bites. though. Even when a field isn't there. At temperatures below around 2 kelvin. and it will continue . That was in 1949. they describe something that is very real indeed. or any other accident favoured in Marvel comics: in the real world. though. it is normal fun: you can fill floaty balloons with it. For a long time. Ten years later Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm. and the helium sits unmoved as the bowl revolves beneath it. Although it is far from an everyday phenomenon. Then fire an electron through the hole. rediscovered the effect and for some reason their names stuck. the Aharonov-Bohm effect might prove to have uses in the real world--in magnetic sensors.

under certain circumstances. But there is a high price to be paid for that understanding--admitting the existence of . vol 427. Israel. Not even Superman can do that.gyrating forever. the Copenhagen interpretation amounts to an admission that. to trot out the notorious quote from Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman: "Nobody understands quantum mechanics. So extraordinary is this superpower that Moses Chan and Eun-Seong Kim of Pennsylvania State University in University Park checked and re-checked their data on solid helium for four years before eventually publishing in 2004 (Nature. This will. We don't yet know how all superconductors work. With its uncertainty principles and measurement paradoxes. In fact. faced with the full-frontal assault of quantum weirdness. for instance--and for levitating superfast trains. making them valuable for transporting electrical energy. 8. compared with a supersolid. The explanations attempted here use the most widely accepted framework for thinking about quantum weirdness. like many other physicists. as classical beasts. but not particularly useful." It does have a ring of truth to it. so the position of each atom is highly uncertain. Nobody understands It is tempting. the momentum of individual atoms or electrons in these materials is tiny and very precisely known. but it seems the uncertainty principle plays a part (see "Quantum wonders: Something for nothing"). the bonds between helium atoms are weak. The opposite might be said of superconductors. researchers have seen hints that any crystalline material might be persuaded to perform such a feat at temperatures just a fraction above absolute zero. these vacancies form their own fluid-like Bose-Einstein condensate. "I don't feel that I don't understand quantum mechanics. they begin to overlap with each other to the point where you can't describe them individually. though." says Chan. These solids conduct electricity with no resistance. called the Copenhagen interpretation after the city in which Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg thrashed out its ground rules in the early 20th century." he says. for creating enormously powerful magnetic fields--to steer protons around CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Under these conditions. ghost-like. The only known example is solid helium cooled to within a degree of absolute zero and at around 25 times normal atmospheric pressure. All this is nothing in the weirdness stakes. At very low temperatures. Under the right conditions. we are ill-equipped to see underlying quantum reality. They start acting as one superatom or superelectron that moves without friction or resistance. Nevertheless. Lev Vaidman of Tel Aviv University. Any attempt we make to engage with it reduces it to a shallow classical projection of its full quantum richness. touts an alternative explanation. through itself. p 225). however. "I had little confidence we would see the effect. and some break off to leave a network of "vacancies" that behave almost exactly like real atoms. pass right through the normal helium lattice --meaning the solid flows. That's fun.

The "coherent picture" that Vaidman refers to is reconciling Einstein's sense of causality with entanglement. Duality attempts to explain why under some conditions we see "classical" particle-like behavior and under others we see QM wave-like behavior.." says Vaidman. Embrace wave-function non-locality and what it means. in the words of Feynman again. In its detail. there is no way to have a coherent picture. but as a bad explanation. reality merely splits into as many parallel worlds as there are measurement possibilities. "If you don't admit many-worlds. In this picture. Take The Next Step Mon May 10 09:23:45 BST 2010 by Liza I've read your previous comment on the according to you false particle-wave duality. It generates fantasies of alternate co-existing realities where every choice is explored. Take the next step and move past Einstein's causality. Or. COMMENTS Take The Next Step The Copenhagen interpretation was an attempt by a generation of stunned scientist to bridge the difference between our classical sense of the universe and its quantum reality. and you mentioned locality as well." Yes. Take The Next Step Mon May 10 17:08:56 BST 2010 by David Allen @Liza ". Although the Multi-World interpretation (MWI) is an improvement over the Copenhagen interpretation. most books on physics for non-physicists still mention the duality as an established theory. "the 'paradox' is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality ought to be". most books are based on the dominant. wave functions do not "collapse" to classical certainty every time you measure them. except for your personal opinion?" .most books on physics for non-physicists still mention the duality as an established theory. interpretation of quantum mechanics (QM)." says Vaidman. they are emergent. except for your personal opinion? What you say may make sense or could just as well be nothing but wild speculation. @Liza "Do you have any real reason to assume the duality is false. One of these carries you and the reality you live in away with it. there is no way to have a coherent picture. Do you have any real reason to assume the duality is false. not a theory. I don't have the knowledge to make up my mind. Duality is an explanation. Still. it still creates confusion and misunderstanding by failing to accept the truth of the non-locality of wave-functions. and very entrenched. the Copenhagen interpretation.parallel universes. QM is the theory. but since I'm not a physicist. It distorts the reality of quantum behavior and results in confusion.. it spawns them. Space and time are not fundamental properties of the universe. and non-locality is normal. and non-locality is normal. whether it is the Copenhagen interpretation or many-worlds you accept. the MWI doesn't actually support this idea. "If you don't admit many-worlds. apparent paradoxes and general misunderstanding. "What if Hitler won?" scenarios.

I claim however that special relativity only applies to energy in space. however the wave-function models can. time and space are emergent from quantum decoherence. or specific ordering to be established between frames of reference. flow of time makes the universe appear to grow at an exponential rate to observers within the universe. in fact it needs it to support wave-function collapse. which isn't true. It can only be explained by the wave-function models. the ideas behind them can be used to simplify the math. there's no real reason to hang on to the particle idea except that it's easier to visualise and understand for most people. The distortions in observer time mean that at the point of maximum expansion. Wild Speculation: The wild speculation I engage in is that the Universe has no true spacial dimensions. This would also avoid a contradiction with special relativity. so my conclusions are certainly just my opinion. I also claim that non-local entanglement may not necessarily allow simultaneity. The flow of time and expansion of space are tied to the rate of decoherence. and it's surely interesting. Both duality and wave-function collapse are bad general explanations. However I think that there may be a way to falsify this second claim. The universe begins to collapse. and not to quantum information. they can describe both the wave-like behavior and the particle-like behavior. As for non-locality: The issues surrounding non-locality are harder to tease apart.wikipedia. In the right circumstances however. making real-world problems more tractable. but the rate of decoherence slows down as space expands due to fewer interactions. Wheeler's delayed choice experiment can't be explained by duality and wave-function collapse. The relative rates of growth in space vs. The whole decoherence/dimensions speculation is . the dominant quantum interactions become entanglement. This will give you some idea of the different approaches: http://en. if the wave-function models can explain all what's observed. Particle interpretations are incomplete. exploding almost instantly to its current size. Take The Next Step Tue May 11 15:53:59 BST 2010 by Liza Hey thanks! I had to read your comment thrice in order to understand what you are explaining (no fault of yours).Yes I have reasons to reject duality as an explanation: The word "duality" implies equivalence. and the particle-based models can't. At the point of maximum density. When there is no more matter and all energy stretches to the ultimate quantum levels. In other words the wave-function models are complete. and as it does the rate of entanglement increases. The non-local behavior of entanglement does not contradict it. Particle like models of QM systems can't describe everything that is seen in experiments. this collapse would appear to be inversely exponential. True. magical even. the universe appears to have gone on almost forever in this high density state of slowing collapse. To observers inside the universe.org/wiki/Principle_of_locality The Copenhagen interpretation doesn't reject non-locality. MWI's rejection of non-locality appears to be based on a desire to avoid an explanation that contradicts special relativity. and unnecessary. I guess non-locality gets rejected because it seems beyond what we can comprehend. the universe appears to have just been created. but other than that is basically in line with my wave-only perspective. The Many-Worlds interpretation (MWI) does reject non-locality.

where time is symmetric.These concepts suffice to explain all the anomolies in Quantum Mechanics. and continues on its forward journey. Anti-time(Quantum World) and Nul time. Specifically I was considering an adaptation to the Wheeler and Feynman theory. exactly as in entangled particles/photons. This means that the whole signal effectively goes forward in time. i. Entitled "The formulation of harmonic quintessence and a fundamental energy equivalence equation" Physics Essays 23: 311-319 Quantum Wonders Nobody Understands Mon May 10 00:00:32 BST 2010 by Julian Mann I do not agree with Vaidman that we are forced into accepting parallel universes. I have noticed that when scientists do not understand something in Physics. rather than the usual Zephir-style nonsense. reconcile it to relativity etc.e. Equally well the electomanetic signal does not need to go all the way back to the BIG Bang it just needs to go back to the point in time when the electromanetic effect/signal was created. but have you ever tried to make some calculations to see if it holds up? PS: it's pretty nice to read comments on this topic from people who make sense. Any thoughts . See my comments on the quantum Hamlet Effect and the existence of Classical Time.fascinating. The Big Bang. Specifically it is important to look at the quantum world at a very much smaller scale. they invoke such concepts for which there is no experimental evidence for existence Quantum Wonders Nobody Understands Mon May 10 15:20:16 BST 2010 by andwor Thank you for your insightful comments. Please see a recently published article (currently online) on exactly this topic. This requires also that the future is the "perfect absorber" and since the recent discovery of the accelerating Universe then we do have our "perfect" absorber Of course entanglement is the archetypal example of where this might be happening. But in the presence of the "perfect reflector " in the past. This effectively means that electromagnetic processes go backwards in time as well as forwards. view thread Quantum Wonders: Nobody Understands Sun May 09 15:28:00 BST 2010 by andwor in order to understand the quantum world it is important to take the next quntum leap. I am also exploring the concept of what you term "anti-time". then the half that goes backwards in time gets refelected forwards in time to arrive when it left.