Mechanics is that part of physics concerned with stuff that moves, from cannonballs to tennis balls, cars, rockets, and planets. Quantum mechanics is that part of physics which describes the motions of objects at molecular, atomic, and sub-atomic levels, such as photons and electrons.
Although quantum mechanics is an extraordinarily successful scientific theory, on which much of today’s tech-obsessed lifestyles depend, it is also completely mad. The theory quite obviously works, but it appears to leave us chasing ghosts and phantoms, particles that are waves and waves that are particles, cats that are at once both alive and dead, lots of seemingly spooky goings-on, and a desperate desire to lie down quietly in a darkened room.
The madness is nothing new. Those who nursed quantum mechanics through its difficult birth and early childhood knew full well what they were getting themselves into, and endlessly debated its interpretation and meaning. Although the science has moved on, and we now know much more than we did a century ago, many of these debates remain unresolved. As the charismatic American physicist Richard Feynman once claimed, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Some knowledge of its history helps to understand why Feynman felt justified in making this claim. So, how well do you know your quantum history? Take this quiz find out.
Featured Image Credit: Shanadat Rahman via Unsplash