Scientists say quantum materials will be the basis for amazing devices, but when?



The world of the quantum stretches the limits of human imagination. Who could ever believe, for instance, that atoms — the building blocks of our seemingly solid landscape — are able to exist in different places at one time?

That they can be “entangled” together such that an action on one atom or particle will affect another across considerable distances? Or that they are irrevocably altered simply by the act of being observed?



Yet that is what quantum laws tell us. Einstein himself was famously troubled by the implication that reality was actually just a collection of probabilities, where God not only played dice with the universe but also hid the dice. “To common sense, quantum mechanics is nonsensical,” says Nobel prize-winning physicist William D. Phillips of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST).



Nevertheless, developing quantum theory was “the crowning intellectual achievement of the last century,” says California Institute of Technology physicist John Preskill. It’s the underlying principle for many of today’s devices, from lasers to magnetic resonance imaging machines. And these may prove to be just the low-hanging fruit. Many scientists foresee revolutionary technologies based on the truly strange properties of the quantum world.



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