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Quantum Physics Definition: The Science of the Invisible

Quantum physics is the branch of science that studies the nature and behaviour of matter and energy at the smallest of scales.

It reveals the hidden secrets of the microscopic world, where atoms, electrons, photons, and other particles interact in mysterious and fascinating ways. Quantum physics also challenges our common sense and intuition, showing that reality is not as straightforward or predictable as we might think.

Quantum Physics

One of the key features of quantum physics is the concept of quantisation, which means that specific physical quantities, such as energy, angular momentum, or electric charge, can only take discrete values rather than continuous ones.

For example, the energy of an electron in an atom can only have certain levels, and the electron can jump from one level to another by absorbing or emitting a photon, a quantum of light. This phenomenon is called the quantum leap, and it explains why atoms emit or absorb light of specific frequencies or colours.

Quantum Leap

Another important aspect of quantum physics is the principle of wave-particle duality, which states that all matter and energy can behave as both waves and particles, depending on how they are measured.

For instance, light can act as a stream of photons with mass and momentum or as an electromagnetic wave with frequency and wavelength. Similarly, electrons can act as tiny balls with position and velocity or as probability waves with amplitude and phase.

The wave nature of matter and energy is described by the Schrödinger equation, which is the fundamental equation of quantum mechanics.

Wave-particle duality

A third characteristic of quantum physics is the principle of uncertainty, which limits the precision with which we can know the properties of a quantum system.

For example, we cannot measure an electron's exact position and momentum simultaneously because the act of measurement disturbs the system and changes its state.

The more we know about one property, the less we know about the other. This is known as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, implying fundamental randomness and unpredictability in the quantum world.

Heisenberg uncertainty principle

A fourth feature of quantum physics is the phenomenon of entanglement, which occurs when two or more quantum particles are so strongly correlated that they share the same quantum state, even when large distances separate them.

This means that measuring the state of one particle instantly affects the state of the other, regardless of the space or time between them. This is called quantum nonlocality, or quantum spooky action at a distance, and it violates the principle of locality, which assumes that physical events are influenced only by their immediate surroundings.

The phenomenon of entanglement

Quantum physics has many applications and implications for science and technology, as well as for philosophy and culture. It has led to the development of devices such as lasers, transistors, superconductors, and quantum computers, which use the properties of quantum systems to perform tasks that are impossible or inefficient with classical systems.

It has also inspired new fields of research, such as quantum information, quantum cryptography, quantum metrology, and quantum biology, which explore the role of quantum phenomena in various domains.

Moreover, it has provoked deep questions about the nature of reality, causality, free will, and consciousness, which challenge our worldview and understanding of ourselves and the universe.


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