Quantum Physics: an overview of a weird world
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- The conceptual foundations of Quantum Physics that nowhere else are taught.
- The course does not need any mathematical skills.
Note: Take a look at the free lectures! Scroll down to the curriculum and click on 'Basics I'. The 'preview' lectures are free. That might help you to get a better feeling on what's about.
Why this course? This is a course that originates from my desire to share my knowledge of the mysterious as fascinating world of Quantum Physics. Considering how the media (sometimes also physicists) present Quantum Theory focusing only on highly dubious ideas and speculations backed by no evidence or, worse, promote pseudo-scientific hypes that fall regularly into and out of fashion, I felt it necessary to create a serious introduction to the conceptual foundations of Quantum Physics for all. The world needs to know what Quantum Mechanics is, as it really is, beyond vulgarized oversimplifications which have led only to misunderstandings. This is also a long-term project, which aims at demystifying quantum physics. An extended and detailed treatise that aims at rising the global awareness on a subject I love to talk about. I have worked hard to create not just a “quantum physics for dummies” course but a a high level and professional account which remains nevertheless accessible to all. I sincerely hope you will enjoy it and that it will make you discover new realities. I will continue to work on it. You can help by enrolling.
Who is it for? This course is for all and does not need any technical background. It is for those who always wanted to understand the principles of quantum physics, even if they are not physicists. For those who always have been attracted by the fascinating and weird quantum world, but found only advanced level university courses, or superficial popular science accounts or, worse, pseudo-scientific theories. For those who searched for a course that explains the basics of the conceptual foundations of Quantum Mechanics, but that does not presuppose a technical preparation, and yet furnishes the most rigorous and advanced account as far an (almost) non-mathematical exposition allows for.
Since in schools, colleges and universities, Quantum Physics is taught with a dry and almost exclusively technical approach which furnishes only a superficial insight on its foundations, this course is recommended also to school, undergraduate and graduate students who would like to look further. Not only physicists could (re-)discover some topics but philosophers and historians of science could acquire with this course a basic preparation which is unlikely to be offered in most departments. This online course proposes itself also to become part of a faculty curriculum in departments or other institutions which would like to expand their interests towards the foundations of Quantum Physics (contact the instructor for details).
What is it about? A course on the conceptual foundations of Quantum Physics on topics that you won't find elsewhere explained at introductory level, designed to be a comprehensive A-Z guide that will save you a ton of time in searching elsewhere trying to piece all the different information together. It will lead you by hand as clearly as possible from the abc of Quantum Mechanics to the most recent experiments and its implications.
A course that does not only introduce you to the basics of quantum theory, but covers also with a simple approach topics and several experiments that usually are discussed only among specialists. We review the standard concepts like the wave-particle duality, Heisenberg`s uncertainty principle, Schrödinger`s cat, the vacuum zero-point energy and virtual particles, among several others. Then we deepen the subject analysing quantum entanglement, the so called "EPR paradox" which question our naive understanding of the meaning of reality and locality, together with other effects and ground breaking discoveries of the last century physics. Another, more advanced section, and that is usually not explained to the popular audience in an accurate but clear and understandable way, is what I call the "quantum ontology experiments", like the "which way", "quantum erasure", "delayed choice", "interaction free" and "quantum teleportation" experiments. This course is unique in the sense that, after delivering a historic introduction and the foundations, it discusses also several topics which go to the essence of the quantum phenomena, making it available for the first time in an easy understandable way to everyone. Especially the part on the quantum ontology experiments may be interesting for physicists who want to deepen their conceptual foundations.
My aim is to deliver the material necessary so that you will be able by yourself to distinguish between mere speculative (and more or less extravagant) interpretations in fashion, and the real Quantum Theory and its experimental facts as it is.
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- Everyone who is passionate about science and/or philosophy of science and is curious about the laws and the nature of the material universe.
- The course is well suited for all those university students who do not have sufficient mathematical background to go through a high-level QM course, but would like to assimilate the basics of quantum physics for the purpose of additional research. For instance philosophers, historians of science or biologist.
Some few historic remarks on how the nature of light was understood from the ancient Greece to Thomas Young's double slit experiment.
Introduction to the concept of force field and the interference of waves.
The historical point of departure of quantum theory was Planck's derivation of the black body radiation which assumed energy to be quantized. Previously it was thought that energy is a continuous phenomenon. Its quantization was a conceptual revolution that can be compared to a sort of "Copernican revolution".
Are photons and electrons particles or waves? If they are both, when do they show upn as one or the other aspect? The wave-particle duality illustrated by Young's double slit experiment will shed some light on this.
The description of the quantum world in terms of a probabilistic interpretation led to a mathematical formalism which is quite different than that used in classical physics. Classical states and dynamical variables are replaced by state vectors and operators, the "observables". The resulting formalism led to Schrödinger's equation which became the base for a successful understanding of atomic physics.
It looks like that quantum mechanics describes a non-local reality, where apparently faster than light interactions might occur. In what sense should we interpret this? What experiments could help us to discriminate between different interpretations?
What does it really mean that particles interact? What is a field and what kind of particles are the "material" particles and those responsible as force carriers? This lecture sets the stage to understand better the distinction between bosons and fermions.
This is a long lecture and for advanced students only. It is however not compulsory or necessary to understand the rest of the course material. It is nevertheless a fascinating effect which shows how quantum objects do (apparently?) not need to be in direct contact with a magnetic field to be influenced by its presence.
With the advent of laser and optical technologies it is nowadays possible to perform experiments which were impossible at the times of Einstein or Schrödinger. The Mach-Zehnder interferometer is a typical device that is used to test the foundation of quantum mechanics and is worth a closer look.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: ERRATA
Please consider that the second polarzation-rotator should be placed after the first polarization-rotator and before the second beam splitter (i.e., NOT after the second beam splitter and D1, as shown in the lecture's slide). I apologize for this mistake and will fix this with a new video as soon as I can, but meanwhile keep this in mind!
It is information about the path a particles travels along which makes the wavefunction collapse. But is it due to a perturbation of it or is it a general (information theoretic) law of nature? By using twice the same device which furnishes this information, but erasing it at the second stage of measurement we get the answer.
The Scully-Englert-Walther experiments contains several of the typical quantum philosophy experiment: it is a quantum eraser and which-way experiment that shows the wave-particle duality for atoms. It is important for understanding how the principle of complementarity is fundamental and seems to have temporal retro-causal effects.
Quantum teleportation is a bizarre quantum effect that reminds scifi transportation systems like that of the "beaming" of objects in Star Trek's film. This is still not possible for macroscopic objects, but it has been shown experimentally to be possible with single particles or atoms.