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Einstein’s beef with quantum physics, explained

We honour Einstein for developing the special theory of relativity. Time is the fourth dimension and nothing travels faster than the speed of light, although he did not develop the equations. That was the interpretation, the story told by the equations, and this holds true for every other physics theory as well. It's different with quantum mechanics. We are in possession of the quantum mechanical equations, but we cannot agree on their interpretation.

Since Schrodinger's equation is the most well-known, we can turn the handle and derive numbers from it, but the narrative, the story, and the explanation are still up for debate. That bothers me, too. When quantum mechanics emerged, it wasn't because physicists were sitting around scratching their heads wondering if there must be a deeper understanding of the nature of reality. By the end of the 19th century, it was already known that we needed some new physics to explain mysterious phenomena, such as X-ray-like radio activity, that energy seemed to be coming out of nowhere, to understand the behaviour or the structure of the atom.

We'll think of quantum mechanics. It was imposed upon physicists as a result of mysterious experimental results. The world is hazy and probabilistic. Particles aren't discrete, small lumps, and they occasionally act like dispersed waves of probability. Atoms can have two energies at once, electrons may be in two positions at once, and nothing ever behaves in a single manner for sure. Actually, it's much lower than anything we can picture or fathom.

When you get down to the scale of individual cells or bacteria or, for that matter, a billionth of a metre, you start to experience the fuzziness of the quantum world. As an example, consider a tennis ball that is subject to Newtonian mechanics. As you get smaller and smaller, you will eventually encounter this fuzziness.

The pioneers of quantum mechanics, including the Danish physicist Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli, were active in the 1920s. Eventually they came to the realisation that while they could anticipate the outcomes of measurements, the link to the outside world could only be made by looking. So the "shut up and compute interpretation," or more properly the "Copenhagen narrative," is how they got away with not needing a story. However, many physicists today, including myself, claim that this story is simply a denial strategy.

By the way, Einstein was quite upset with this, he remarked, "No, physics' role is to know and comprehend how the universe works, not only to anticipate the outcomes of tests and have such an operationalist perspective. Okay, while it is helpful, it doesn't really help us comprehend anything." We still require a story for this reason. The current world is largely due to quantum mechanics understanding and Einstein's ideas of relativity.

We wouldn't have gained a grasp of materials and how they conduct electricity, meaning we wouldn't have been able to comprehend semiconductors or create silicon chips, which would have prevented the development of computers. Without our grasp of quantum mechanics, I would not be speaking in this medium right now. The quantum universe has other features, nevertheless, that are more enigmatic.

For instance, quantum entanglement proposes that, let's say, two electrons that are separated in space can yet act in unison. There are conjectural hypotheses on the possibility that quantum entanglement connects space itself. Even the brightest quantum physicists don't fully understand what happens inside their smartphones, but since we will be developing concepts like quantum cryptography, quantum computing, and quantum sensors that will have an impact on how we live our daily lives, we do need to have a basic understanding of the science in order to know who and what to believe.

We uncover greater secrets when we remove the layers of the onion covering reality's essence. But while it's true that we're always learning, getting wiser, and understanding a lot more about the way the world works now, it doesn't follow that we've come to the end of the path. No, I believe there will be more craziness in the future, and that's fantastic. I'm eager for it.

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