Quantum physics - Deepstash
Quantum physics

Quantum physics

Curated from: newscientist.com

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Quantum physics - a simple explanation

Quantum physics - a simple explanation

Quantum physics is the field of physics that explains how everything works.

It is the best description of the nature of the particles that make up matter and the forces with which they interact. If you want to explain how photons on light turn to electrical current in a solar panel, or how the sun keeps burning, you'll need to use quantum physics.

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There’s no single quantum theory

Quantum mechanics explains the basic mathematical framework that supports it all.

To understand how things work in reality, quantum mechanics must be combined with other elements of physics, such as Einstein's special theory of relativity, to create quantum field theories.

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Quantum field theories

Three different quantum field theories deal with three of the four fundamental forces by which matter interacts:

  • Electromagnetism: It explains how atoms hold together.
  • The strong nuclear force: It describes the stability of the nucleus at the centre of the atom.
  • The weak nuclear force: It explains why some atoms undergo radioactive decay.

The three theories are known as the "standard model" of particle physics.

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Effective field theories

Understanding how electrons move or not through a solid material and so make a material a metal, an insulator or a semiconductor, for example, requires the development of "effective field theories" that don't go into all the details.

But it is difficult to construct such a theory, and the reason why many important questions in solid-state physics remain unresolved.

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The paradoxes of quantum particles

Quantum particles can act as particles located in a single place, or they can act as waves that are distributed all over space or in several places at once.

How they appear seems to depend on how we choose to measure them. Before we measure, they seem to have no apparent properties at all. This fuzziness leads to paradoxes such as Schrödinger’s cat (a cat is left dead and alive at the same time). Quantum particles also seem to affect one another at the same time even if they are far away from each other, known as entanglement.

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The elephants in the room

  • A fourth fundamental force of nature that quantum theory cannot explain, namely gravity, doesn't even involve particles. None of the decades of effort can bring gravity under the quantum umbrella to explain all of fundamental physics within one "theory of everything."
  • Then it appears that over 95 per cent of the universe consists of dark matter and dark energy. There is currently no explanation within the standard model.

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IDEAS CURATED BY

aryaman

General writer. Pop culture geek.

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