I was checking my blog stats (read seriously procrastinating folding the laundry) and noticed that one of the search terms that was sending surfers to my other blog was "Oprah's take on quantum mechanics". She has one?
I promptly popped it into Google to see what would come up. I had to know.
I found out. The Law of Attraction. Think and you can change what happens. Proven by quantum mechanics. The Quantum Cleanse. (Don't ask - you don't want to know.)
Somehow the word "quantum" manages to sound simultaneously mysterious and scientific, and so people attach it to things that they want to sound simultaneously mysterious and scientific. Like diets and the power of positive thinking, or even theology.
I named my personal blog "Quantum Theology" as a play on the two fields I'm trained in: quantum mechanics and theology. Recently a friend of almost forty years wondered just exactly what was quantum mechanics - just what do I do for a living? Repair broken quantums?
When I say something is quantized, I don't mean it's mysterious, I mean that only certain values are allowed, and nothing in between. A good everyday example is your shoe size. You are a 5 or a 5 1/2, but never a 5 1/6. Off the rack shoes (are there any other kind these days?) are quantized.
To a physicist or physical chemist, a quantum is a fixed portion of energy. (The word was coined by Max Planck in 1900.) Quantum mechanics considers the interaction of energy and matter on the atomic level. What happens when light hits an atom? Why is it that only certain amounts of energy can be absorbed? How is it that matter can behave as a particle, and as a wave? Evidence that matter could behave like a wave suggested to Erwin Schrodinger that he could write an equation to find a mathematical description of this behavior.
So what is it I actually do? I use quantum mechanics — specifically solving Schrodinger's handy little equation — to predict the structures of molecules and their energy, then use that information to think about what molecules might exist, or how hard it would be for them to react and what products are likely to form. Right now I'm exploring molecules that are uncomfortably twisted - and topologically "interesting" (Moebius strip molecules).
What if we done the Schrodinger's cat experiment?
6 hours ago in Doc Madhattan