|Not really Schrödinger’s cat, but she is in a box.|
I’ve just come back from an incredible weekend at the Schrödinger Sessions: Science for Science Fiction, at the Joint Quantum Institute at the University of Maryland, near Washington, D.C. The JQI staff hosted just over a dozen SF writers, and for several days stuffed our heads full of information about quantum physics. It was head-exploding. But in a good way!
- How to become quantum (which only works if you are very small, much smaller even than I was when I was at my low weight).
- How (if you can master the first step) you can be in two places at one time—and also how to collapse that state so that you’re just in one.
- How to trap a single charged atom (ion) in a vacuum trap and cool it to just a whisker above Absolute Zero. (And we leaned over and didn’t touch! equipment that does just that.)
- How to quantum-entangle two or more particles in the above-mentioned apparatus. (Okay, I still don’t really understand how to do that.)
- How to make light disappear with two polarized filters, and reappear with the addition of a third. (I sort of understand that.)
- That sometimes the answer to the question “Why?” is “Just shut up and calculate.”
- That probability is not a definition of a thing, but a statement of our knowledge of a system.
- That probability is not a definition of knowledge after all, but of our ignorance about a system.
- That there are two rules of quantum mechanics:
- Quantum objects are waves, and can be in states of superposition (more than one position at a time).
- Rule #1 holds as long as you don’t look!
Professor James Gates (familiar from countless PBS documentaries) told us why he doesn’t buy the extra dimensions suggested by most string theorists.
I learned that quantum physicists say “I don’t know” a lot.
There was tons more, presented by a bunch of professors. I hope I can remember it. Or most of it. Or some of it. Part of it, in fact, plays right into what I’m trying to do in my work-long-in-progress, The Reefs of Time. So I really hope I can remember that part.
|Down in there is a glowing cluster of verra verra cold ytterbium atoms.|