What do an MRI machine and an automatic door-opening mechanism have in common? Both are the result of quantum physics, a universe that is governed by its own rules and is experiencing its second technological revolution.
Although for most people the concept of quantum physics is something totally esoteric, which sounds extremely complicated, typical of brainy and boring scientists outside our daily lives, it turns out that a third of our economy is based on it.
So categorical is the physicist Sonia Fernández-Vidal, author of The Door of the Three Bolts, a fast-paced adventure in a universe with its own rules where walls can be crossed, teleportation is a common means of transport, two twin brothers take off years apart and a cat, Schrödinger’s, is alive and dead at the same time.
But none of this is science fiction, but concrete reality or, better said, quantum reality
“In the quantum world, everything that is possible is happening at the same time,” says Fernández-Vidal, a 33-year-old Ph.D. in physics who, with this book, wants to bring adults – even if its protagonist is a teenager – closer to the basic concepts of quantum physics, which describes and studies the behavior of fundamental particles (those that are not made up of smaller ones): bosons, quarks and leptons, capable of doing things that seem magical.
The laser of the DVD players, the photoelectric cells of the automatic doors, the transistors of computers, the digital television, the microwave, the X-rays, the resonance apparatus… Fernández-Vidal almost loses count and the breath to list some of the things that exist thanks to quantum physics.
A second technological revolution
But the best is yet to come, because “now a second technological revolution of quantum physics is coming” that has its spearhead in quantum computers, with which some universities are already working.
“They have already managed to compute with 12 quibits (quantum bits), with a calculation capacity similar to a computer from the 1950s; when it goes to 60, its capacity will be much greater than that of all the computers that are today set to calculate in parallel”.
Another application that is already on the market is quantum cryptography, which allows the transmission of information that can only be accessed by the recipient thanks to the quantum peculiarities of photons and the well-known Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
But quantum physics opens up many other possibilities that, “although they are still very far away, could have a practical application in the future, since theoretically there is no impediment”, explains Fernández-Vidal, who has worked at CERN (Switzerland) and in Los Alamos (USA), two of the four major research centers on the subject.
Among them he cites the teleportation –which is not teleportation– of an object, which has already been successfully experimented with very small particles, such as those that were teleported across the Danube or in Geneva, and even telepathy would be taking its first steps, Well, in the United States, work is being done “on a kind of chip that is placed in the brain and allows you to control the computer mouse.”
A paradigm shift
The quantum model and the theory of relativity represented a paradigm shift in the world of physics. “There were many concepts that we took as truth at the end of the 19th century that changed drastically.” Quantum physics, “which describes the behavior of very small things, such as subatomic particles, has been a giant step in the way scientists think.”
The universe is no longer like great machinery in which “everything is determined”, quantum physics “envelops the observer in what he is observing, determinism disappears and gives a completely different view of the world around us”, says Vidal- Fernandez.