We cannot observe them directly, but the behavior of atoms, quarks, photons, and everything that makes up the reality on an almost invisible scale confirms that we still do not know much about the universe. “Quantum” appears more and more in terms like “quantum healing” and “quantum politics.” Quantum has become a buzzword. Any scientific relevance to these uses is purely accidental, but today we are going to talk about quantum leaping. Even though quantum mechanics emerged to solve a scientific problem more than a century later, it still holds some mystery. Quantum physics predicts paradoxical or incredible behaviors.
Planck tried various solutions to solve the problem of what the nature of the light emitted by a flame or any other hot body is, before coming up with the idea that light is emitted employing “quantum” energies. He called this “an act of desperation,” but he produced the correct spectrum of light from a hot body, which earned him the Nobel Prize in 1918. Later, Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr won their own Nobel Prizes by extending Planck’s work. Einstein showed us that light comes in discrete packets of energy, later called photons, and Bohr posited that electrons in an atom absorb or emit photons as they jump between levels of quantum energy.
The light that radiates from a fountain is like sand spilling from a bucket; it appears to be a continuous stream, but in reality, it is a multitude of tiny grains lost within the larger stream. Similarly, quantum jumps in atoms are extremely small energy changes, although popular use of “quantum jumps” often incorrectly refers to large changes. Quantum leaping can be found at your favorite bar or the local supermarket. Whenever you see a flashing beer advertisement or a barcode scanner, look closely: you are observing electrical quantum leaping in action through their fingerprints, the emission of light, as Niels Bohr determined.
A neon sign is made using a tube of glass filled with the noble gas neon or another gas that glows when a voltage is applied to it. The “glow discharge,” first seen in the late 19th century, works because the voltage raises the electrons in the gas atoms to a higher energy level; then, the electrons drop to lower levels and release photons. Gases have different levels of atomic energy, and these levels define the wavelengths of the photon. Neon produces red light, and argon generates blue light, and so on.
Quantum leaping is also in fluorescent lighting and lasers. In a fluorescent tube, quantum leaping in the mercury vapor creates ultraviolet photons, which activate a coating inside the tube, which produces white light. Quantum leaping also appears in light-emitting diodes (LEDs). LEDs are made of semiconductors in which electrons must jump through a gap to higher energy before moving as an electric current. By applying a voltage to the led, the electrons jump the gap and then return, producing photons. In addition to LEDs, quantum behavior is crucial for digital devices. Its integrated circuits are made of semiconductor silicon, whose quantum energy gap allows good control of electrons to manipulate digital bits.
Although quantum leaps were considered radical, they do not contradict existing world views. However, overlapping, entanglement and teleportation produce more strangeness because they oppose our understanding of the universe. These problems arise because quantum theory does not predict definitive values for physical properties but only probabilities. The “Schrödinger’s cat” experiment illustrates this statistical nature. The cat is both dead or alive depending on a random event and can therefore be described in both states at the same time.
Quantum Leaping Applications
These effects go beyond science fiction when polarized photons are controlled like qubits in quantum cryptography, a method designed to transmit information securely over a fiber-optic network. In 1984, Charles Bennett and Gilles Brassard invented the quantum key distribution. Like the combination of a padlock, the “key” is a long string of bits that make up the secret password to access a complex of algorithms that encode and decode information. The code is indecipherable without the key. However, this, in turn, must be broadcast from the transmitter to the receiver when it runs the risk of being read by a third party.
Bennett and Brassard showed how this security vulnerability could be circumvented by using the quantum leaping of photon qubits to create a single random string of bits that functioned as a coded secret key based on photon entanglement. Quantum keys have been used to secure bank transfers and election results in Switzerland. They are not yet common.
We might never be able to teleport people or large objects. Still, in 2011, Ian Walmsley of the University of Oxford and his colleagues intertwined macroscopic objects visible to the human eye: two diamonds, each three millimeters long.
In crystalline solids, such as diamonds, atoms vibrate at quantum energies, which are found in unusual amounts for carbon atoms in diamonds. In the experiment, these outside effects were kept out long enough to preserve quantum leaping and allow researchers to bond the diamonds at distances of up to 15 centimeters. This is one step in the growing quantum strangeness to reach a point where it is easier to examine and understand.
Max Planck’s idea in 1900 began a journey from the ordinary world to the submicroscopic world. Although we do not yet fully understand quantum theory, it illuminates this world and advances technology. With results like those of the diamond experiment, we continue the journey bringing the submicroscopic universe to the world we occupy. Planck, Einstein, and Bohr would be wholly fascinated today.