“I have looked everywhere, mom, but it’s not here.” Then, my mom comes, and within seconds she finds the socks I have been looking for two hours. It consistently defied my logic. “I just looked there,” I said. “It wasn’t there.” I didn’t have an explanation for this mysterious “phenomenon” until I came across quantum mechanics.
One day, while scrolling through YouTube, I came across a video by PBS about quantum entanglement. Being curious about it, I clicked on the video. This marked the beginning of my voyage into the quantum realm. I began to watch it with great enthusiasm. But, by the end, I found myself exhausted and dumbfounded by the complexity of the theories. Nonetheless, I was determined to understand it. I was attracted to the challenge posed by the counter-intuitive ideas of quantum mechanics. Furthermore, since quantum mechanics can be used to develop the next generation of computers, it made me more inclined toward learning it.
Despite quantum mechanics being considerably different from other areas of science I have studied, I felt an immediate connection to it. One theory that immediately piqued my interest was quantum superposition. It suggests that quantum particles behave like a wave of probabilities when not being observed. Thus, reality doesn’t exist until we measure it, contradicting our human notion of object permanence. I began to connect quantum mechanics with the stories in my life. I explained the “phenomenon” of my socks hiding from me using my own “quantum theory.” The socks exist in a state of quantum superposition, meaning that until my mom came to “measure” their location, they didn’t exist. The reason I can’t find them is that the particles treat my eyes as if they were other quantum particles rather than an observer. In connecting quantum mechanics to our daily life events, my comprehension of the subject expanded significantly.
The more I studied quantum mechanics, the more mind-boggling it got. With every new theory I learned, I found more and more puzzles to unravel. Recently I started the course 8.04 Quantum Physics I on MIT’s OpenCourseWare and slowly entered the detailed discussion on quantum mechanics. This exposure to rich content in quantum mechanics has helped me further realize how minuscule my knowledge of quantum mechanics is. Upon completing this course, I want to further deepen my understanding by studying recent research papers and books, taking classes, and attending seminars in the following years. Quantum mechanics is a budding branch of physics filled with exciting opportunities to research. Therefore, I also want to explore the scope of applications of quantum mechanics in the fields such as quantum computers and quantum artificial intelligence since it will heavily impact the future of computers and humans.
[The essay was in response to the additional prompt question: Tell us about a concept, theory, or topic you have explored simply because it sparked your intellectual curiosity. Why do you find it intriguing? How do you want to explore it further?]
Kingshuk Kundu (Harvard College ‘24)