Quantum Physics Isn’t Magic, But Thermodynamics Seems That Way

Chad Orzel in Forbes:

Blue_boil-1200x800As someone who has written a book about quantum physics and is at work on another, I get asked a fair number of questions about quantum phenomena. These are often portrayed as a kind of magic, but if you spend enough time thinking about the subject, it's very clearly not magic. Quantum phenomena are weird, certainly, because they confound everyday intuition, but they follow very naturally from the application of fairly simple rules. Knowing more about it doesn't make the subject any less amazing, but the weirdness recedes a bit.

The physics of thermodynamics, on the other hand, follows the opposite trajectory, at least initially. That is, when I find myself thinking more about what's going on in a process like boiling, knowing a little bit about the underlying physics makes it seem more magical. Even more so because there's minimal quantum content, just unimaginably vast numbers of particles interacting in a mostly classical way.

On a bulk level, boiling is just a manifestation of a phase transition in water: as you heat a container of water, eventually you reach a point where the water switches from liquid to gas.

More here.