Huw Price and Ken Wharton in Aeon:
Almost a century ago, physics produced a problem child, astonishingly successful yet profoundly puzzling. Now, just in time for its 100th birthday, we think we’ve found a simple diagnosis of its central eccentricity.
This weird wunderkind was ‘quantum mechanics’ (QM), a new theory of how matter and light behave at the submicroscopic level. Through the 1920s, QM’s components were assembled by physicists such as Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger. Alongside Albert Einstein’s relativity theory, it became one of the two great pillars of modern physics.
The pioneers of QM realised that the new world they had discovered was very strange indeed, compared with the classical (pre-quantum) physics they had all learned at school. These days, this strangeness is familiar to physicists, and increasingly useful for technologies such as quantum computing.
The strangeness has a name – it’s called entanglement – but it is still poorly understood. Why does the quantum world behave this strange way? We think we’ve solved a central piece of this puzzle.