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Quantum physics myths – communicating science

[Communicating science series] [Draft]

Communicating science is more important that ever in this era. Elsewhere I’ve posted various visualizations, including Online Video, which convey physics concepts at different levels of difficulty. And I continue to seek better visualizations of quantum field theory, demonstrating the disconnect from our everyday experience while using metaphors which avoid (to some degree at least) counterproductive rabbit holes.

These articles provide a summary of some misconceptions about quantum physics.

• The Conversation > “Seven common myths about quantum physics” by Julien Bobroff, Physicien, Professeur des Universités, Université Paris-Saclay (April 14, 2019).

1 > “Quantum physics is all about uncertainty.”

2 > “Quantum physics can’t be visualized.

… we physicists are always making representations of it when we teach and popularize it. We use graphs, drawings, metaphors, projections and many other devices. Which is just as well, because students and even veteran quantum physicists like us need a mental image of the objects being manipulated. The contentious part is the accuracy of these images, as it is difficult to represent a quantum object accurately.

Working together with designers, illustrators and video makers, the Physics Reimagined research team seeks to “draw” quantum physics in all its forms: folding activities, graphic novels, sculptures, 3D animations, and on and on.

3 > “Even scientists don’t really understand quantum physics.”

4 > “A few brilliant theorists came up with the entire concept of quantum physics.

5 > “Einstein was quantum physics’ worst enemy.

6 > “Quantum physics has no practical use.

7 > “Quantum physics might explain certain alternative therapies and other mysteries.


Related posts

Cosmological fact and fiction re Sean Carroll’s blog post “True Facts About Cosmology (or, Misconceptions Skewered)” (January 12, 2019).

One thought on “Quantum physics myths – communicating science

  1. Consider this misconception: Atoms are so microscopic that we can only talk about their average statistical behavior – we cannot isolate them and study individual interactions. > “Physicists grab individual atoms in groundbreaking experiment” by Mark Hathaway, University of Otago (February 20, 2020).

    In a first for quantum physics, University of Otago researchers have “held” individual atoms in place and observed previously unseen complex atomic interactions.

    … this quantum process, which until now was only understood through statistical averaging from experiments involving large numbers of atoms.

    “Our method involves the individual trapping and cooling of three atoms to a temperature of about a millionth of a Kelvin using highly focused laser beams in a hyper-evacuated (vacuum) chamber, around the size of a toaster. We slowly combine the traps containing the atoms to produce controlled interactions that we measure,” says Associate Professor Mikkel F. Andersen of Otago’s Department of Physics.

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