There's been a lot of scientific progress in the 10,000 or so years of human history, most of it in the past few centuries. But the natural world still has a lot of mysteries.
I find this highly appealing. It shows that if someone is attracted to the unknown, there's no need to embrace religiosity or the supernatural. Just look around at the world that surrounds us, and indeed is us.
What you'll see are quantum phenomena. Not directly, because the quantum realm typically is well hidden, manifesting only in atomic and subatomic processes that are far beyond the ability of any person to observe with our usual senses.
However, as I've been reading in my new favorite book, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku's Quantum Supremacy: How the Quantum Computer Revolution Will Change Everything, nothing in existence is independent of quantum mechanics.
Chemistry. Physics. Biology. Life. Evolution. Big bang. Galaxies. Plants. Brains. Animals. At their root lies quantum phenomena. Kaku says that nature effortlessly manages what we humans struggle to grasp.
The problem facing quantum computers was also foreseen by Richard Feynman when he first proposed the concept. In order for quantum computers to work, atoms have to be arranged precisely so that they vibrate in unison. This is called coherence.
But atoms are incredibly small and sensitive objects. The smallest impurity or disturbance from the outside world can cause this array of atoms to fall out of coherence, ruining the entire calculation. So the trillion dollar question is: Can we control decoherence?
In order to minimize the contamination coming from the outside world, scientists use special equipment to drop the temperature to near absolute zero, where unwanted vibrations are at a minimum. But this requires expensive, special pumps and tubing to reach those temperatures.
But we are faced with a mystery. Mother Nature uses quantum mechanics at room temperature without a problem.
For example, the miracle of photosynthesis, one of the most important processes on earth, is a quantum process, yet it takes place at normal temperatures. Mother Nature does not use a roomful of exotic devices operating at near absolute zero to execute photosynthesis.
For reasons that are not well understood, in the natural world coherence can be maintained even on a warm, sunny day, when disturbances from the outside world should create chaos at the atomic level.
If we could one day figure out how Mother Nature performs her magic at room temperature, then we might become masters of the quantum and even life itself.
Fascinating. I've read quite a few books about quantum mechanics, those aimed at general readers like me who lack the knowledge of physics and mathematics necessary to grasp the details of this field. I don't recall any writing that spelled out so clearly the difference between how nature utilizes quantum phenomena and how we humans struggle to do the same.
One of the last paragraphs I read today described why quantum computers are so powerful. I don't pretend to fully grasp what is said here, but I look forward to reading more of Kaku's book and, hopefully, gaining a better comprehension.
It is precisely postulates 3 and 4 that make quantum computers possible. The electron is now described as the simultaneous sum over different quantum states, which gives quantum computers their calculational power. While classical computers only sum over just 0s and 1s, quantum computers sum over all quantum states between 0 and 1, which vastly increases the number of states and therefore their range and power.