The Webcomic Guide to Quantum Physics

Last year, Jorge Cham of the webcomic Piled Higher and Deeper (a.k.a. PhD comics) combined animation with expert interviews to explain the Higgs Boson and black body radiation. Now, he's trying his hand at quantum physics – a subject, he admits, he is somewhat mystified by.

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But then, says Cham, the mystifying nature of Quantum-ness, in general, is precisely the issue:

I think the word Quantum has a special power in our collective consciousness. It’s used to convey science-iness, technology, the weirdness of the Physical world. If you Google “Quantum”, most of the top hits are for technology companies that have nothing to do with Quantum Physics (including Quantum Fishing Tackles. I suppose that half the time, you pull up a dead fish).

It’s one of those words that a lot of people have heard of, but very few really understand what it means. Which is why I was excited when Spiros Michalakis and IQIM approached me to produce a series of animations that explore and explain Quantum Information and Matter. Like my previous videos (The Higgs Boson, Dark Matter, Exoplanets), I’d have the chance to interview experts in this field and use their expertise and their voices to learn and to help others learn what amazing things lie just around the corner, beyond our classical understanding of the Universe.

Featured above is the first installment in a the new Quantum series produced by Cham in partnership with the Institute for Quantum Information and Matter at Caltech, and features researchers Amir Safavi-Naeini and Oskar Painter. Check it out (especially if you're familiar with PhD Comics), then head over to Quantum Frontiers to learn more about this awesome collaboration!

H/t Jennifer Oullette!

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DISCUSSION

Corpore Metal

So our instruments have finally become sensitive enough to measure this femtometer redshift? That's amazing!

Although, I think there is at least one oversimplification in this video.

While it may be true that they have cooled this object down to it's ground state energy, technically, at as far as I can remember, that tempurature is not absolute zero. It may be very close to it, in the milli- or microkelvin range, or it may be in the negative kelvins (negative temperature is possible.) but it can't be at true absolute zero. I think that's forbidden thermodynamically and quantum mechanically.

And on a related note:

A large part of what I think people are mystified by in quantum mechanics is how quanta can be both a particle-like and wave-like depending on how we look at them. That's because what quanta really are is something that has no natural analog on the classical human scale.

Our intuition fails because there are no things on the classical scale that look and behave as quanta do. So mental pictures of billiard bills and waves in vibrating ropes won't work.

Quanta are these other things that move in ways completely unlike waves or particles but can look wave-like or particle-like depending on how we design our experiments.

And quantum theory gets worse from there.