logo

quantum mechanics

  • Hossenfelder review_HERO

    Your Guide to the Many Meanings of Quantum Mechanics

    The question “What is real?” is inescapable if you study quantum mechanics.Photo illustration by Nikk / Flickr Quantum mechanics is more than a century old, but physicists still fight over what it means. Most of the hand wringing and knuckle cracking in their debates goes back to an assumption known as “realism.” This is the […]

  • placeholder

    Is Quantum Theory About Reality or What We Know?

    Does the quantum state ultimately represent some objective aspect of reality, or is it a way of characterizing something about us, namely, something about what some person knows about reality?Photograph by Ben Scholzen / Flickr Physicists know how to use quantum theory—your phone and computer give plenty of evidence of that. But knowing how to […]

  • placeholder

    Is Quantum Theory About Reality or What We Know?

    Physicists know how to use quantum theory—your phone and computer give plenty of evidence of that. But knowing how to use it is a far cry from fully understanding the world the theory describes—or even what the various mathematical devices scientists use in the theory are supposed to mean. One such mathematical object, whose status […]

  • Gerace_HERO

    My Personal Hero: Alan Lightman on William Gerace

    Several years ago, I attended a Buddhist retreat in which I was introduced to the idea of the “retinue,” a constellation of influential and supportive people whom one imagines in an enveloping cloud as one meditates. Mentors. I took the concept one step further and decided to create an actual photo montage that I could […]

  • placeholder

    Why “Hawking Radiation” Was Almost “Feynman Radiation”

    Nautilus’ Ingenious this month, Alan Lightman, is a successful writer and physicist, and one of the very rare people to receive an appointment in both science and humanities at MIT*. He did his doctoral research at Caltech while Richard Feynman was a professor there. One day, Lightman was on hand to see the brilliant and […]

  • placeholder

    How to See Quantum Drops of Light

    An illustration of wave interferenceSybille Yates via Shutterstock Though we can see in remarkably low-light conditions, humans aren’t quite sensitive enough to see individual photons—the particles that make up all types of light. In our day-to-day lives, we are so awash with light that its particle nature is just as masked as the atomic nature […]

  • placeholder

    An Arguably Unreal Particle Powers All of Your Electronics

    A microscopic image of a metamaterial used to test relativity in a lab.Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Like happy families, every free electron is alike: They all have the same mass, the same electric charge, and the same spin. But inside a solid, various interactions can make electrons behave like entirely different particles. They may act […]

  • placeholder

    The Trouble With Teleportation

    One of my favorite scenes in the film Galaxy Quest—a satirical love letter to Star Trek and its rabid fans—is when Jason, an actor on a fictional TV series within the movie, ends up stranded on a real alien planet facing off against a monstrous “pig lizard.” His crew, back on board the ship, can […]

  • placeholder

    The Comforting Certainty of Unanswered Questions

    Light was thought to travel through aether like waves on a lakeShutterstock You might know the anecdote. In April 1900, Lord Kelvin, one of the most prominent physicists of the 19th century, stands in the speaker’s well of the Royal Society in London. Surveying the state of scientific knowledge at the dawn of a new […]

  • Schrödinger’s Cat

    Why Every Coin Flip May Be a Schrödinger’s Cat

    During a recent conference on cosmic frontiers, University of California, Davis, professor Andreas Albrecht made a provocative statement: “Every Brownian motion is a Schrödinger’s Cat.” Technically, it was part of a broader talk on implications for a multiverse contained in various models of inflation in the early universe—based in turn on a recent technical paper. But Albrecht’s colorful […]