Tales from the quantum frontier


Quantum_hmed_11a The quantum world may seem so small and weird that there's no connection with everyday reality, but that impression couldn't be further from the truth. Newly published studies – and a newly released documentary – explore the big frontiers of the quantum information revolution. Actually, quantum physics is as connected to everyday reality as the device that's displaying these words of mine. If it weren't for the quantum nature of light, inventions such as computers, TVs and DVD players would be impossible.

Some aspects of quantum mechanics are easier to understand than others, however. It's one thing to wrap your mind around the idea that light comes in individual packets called photons, and quite another to suggest that a single photon can travel along two paths at once. Or to suggest that two photons can be linked so strongly that doing something to one of them affects the other. Even Albert Einstein said that was “spooky.” It may be that our brains just aren't programmed to pick up on the weirder implications of quantum physics, such as superposition, information teleportation and particle entanglement. But Anton Zeilinger, a University of Vienna physicist who pioneered the technology behind teleportation, says that doesn't always have to be the case.

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