The past two decades have forced the world to adjust to the changes brought by the Digital Era, but just as we have begun to acclimate to a world where technology reigns, scientists have sprung a new direction on us. Now, the Quantum Age is set to replace the Digital Era in terms of technology and daily living.
With the recent success of quantum jumps, once thought to be the overactive imagination of a fictional writer and not possible, the collective world has sat up to reassess our grasp on what reality is. Physicists are redefining their core understanding of physics, reshaping science fiction and fact at a foundational level.
What Does Physics Study?
“Science” is a broad term that encompasses all knowledge at some level. Considered to be one of the most complicated and complex branches of science is physics. Physicists deal with the structure of matter at its smallest, invisible level. They try to take the laws of matter and determine how these fundamental aspects of the universe interact and form what we see around us.
Not too long ago, physicists were limited to things that could be seen with a microscope or with general relativity. Now, quantum mechanics are part of the tools of a seasoned physicist and a lab with a solid budget for research.
Quantum physics was once a branch of science that researchers knew existed but couldn’t access. The problem was that it is very difficult to keep something in its quantum state, the smallest possible state known to us currently, long enough for it to be used in any type of experiment. But quantum technologies, once harnessed, have the potential to be significantly more effective than what we know today, limiting the impact on the environment, reducing waste, and minimizing the size of things like sensors and radar. They could also allow for unbreakable encryption of sensitive data.
Breaking down quantum physics goes something like this: All particles, atoms, and molecules follow the laws of quantum mechanics. Therefore, everything follows these laws since everything is made of atoms. At the atomic, subatomic, and molecular scales, these laws make a major difference in how objects behave. If scientists can get down to these levels, they could use them to make changes in our world.
The idea behind these changes is based on the system of superposition. This means that an object has two different states, existing in both. Electrons, for instance, have two quantum states that they could be in, both a spin up and spin down position, but when an electron is in superposition, it’s in both of those states at the same time. The power created during that superposition can be used to create a qubit, the basic unit of information used in a quantum computer. While this potentially can be highly effective and beneficial, it’s not an easy matter. Storing anything in suspension, or a quantum state, must be done extremely cautiously. Any interaction with the universe causes problems, meaning a quantum computer has to be kept shielded electromagnetically and stored at a state of almost absolute zero -an expensive and cumbersome task.
Why Quantum Jumps are Causing the World to Pay Attention
Until the technological advancements of recent times, scientists had no way to look into quantum physics, although they knew it existed. In 1986, researchers were able to verify that quantum jumps could be observed and studied as a physical event. Since that time, more research was devoted to progressing this through technology.
In 2019, the knowledge that quantum jumps were actually predictable, gradual, and able to be controlled pushed scholars even further in their motivation to harness this power. The study was performed by researchers at Yale University. Quantum jumps were able to be monitored, and then the steps replicated, between two energy values in a tiny circuit that was created to act like an atom. During the research, jumps were signified by a repetitive pause in the activity in the background, allowing researchers to predict when they would occur and stop them.
The conclusion was that there is a degree of predictability in the quantum world that is at odds with the previous rules of physics. Since this conclusion was validated through scientific experiments without flaw, physicists must rethink their core understandings of the subject. The two rules are at odds with each other - a first in this complex, yet always ultimately predictable, branch of study. The laws of physics, as one researcher stated, are broken and must be put back together.