The word uncertainty is used a lot in quantum mechanics. One school of thought is that this means there’s something out there in the world that we are uncertain about. But most physicists believe nature itself is uncertain.
One might think that the optical tweezer – a focused laser beam that can trap small particles – is old hat by now. After all, the tweezer was invented by Arthur Ashkin in 1970. And he received the Nobel Prize for it this year - presumably after its main implications had been realized during the last half-century.
In early July, Google announced that it will expand its commercially available cloud computing services to include quantum computing. A similar service has been available from IBM since May. These aren’t services most regular people will have a lot of reason to use yet. But making quantum computers more accessible will help government, academic and corporate research groups around the world continue their study of the capabilities of quantum computing.
Quantum computers, which are based on the strange rules of quantum mechanics, will revolutionise society in a similar way to how mechanical computers have. Once built, they will help us answer many questions in science, create lifesaving medicines, provide transformative capabilities for the financial sector and in general solve certain problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.
Metals, which conduct electricity, and insulators, which don’t, are polar opposites. At least that’s what we’ve believed until now. But we have discovered that a well-known insulator can simultaneously act like a conductor in certain measurements. We don’t yet know the reason for this mysterious behaviour but it is likely due to new and exciting quantum effects.
Only last year the world of physics celebrated the 50th anniversary of Bell’s theorem, a mathematical proof that certain predictions of quantum mechanics are incompatible with local causality. Local causality is a very natural scientific assumption and it holds in all modern scientific theories, except quantum mechanics.