Quantum Physics – Revolution of our Worldview

Describing the world exactly in all its details has always been the ambition of physics. But quantum physics pushes the boundaries of this view and opens a completely new perspective.

Camille Flammarion: L’atmosphère, Paris 1888, Kolorierung: Hugo Heikenwaelder, Wien 1998.
“A missionary of the Middle Ages recounts that he had found the point where the heavens and Earth touch each other…” – Camille Flammarion: L’atmosphère, Paris 1888, Coloration: Hugo Heikenwaelder, Vienna 1998.
There is hardly anything that has preoccupied mankind as much as light. Whether it is described in the Bible as the origin of all life, or by the philosophers of antiquity as a symbol for absolute knowledge, whether we describe certain historical periods as “Dark Ages” or the age of reason as “Enlightenment“ – in the struggle for knowledge, faith and our place in the universe, light has always been a welcome metaphor.
“Let there be light! And there was light.” – Old Testament, The First Book of Moses
However, light only became a subject of investigation as the modern natural sciences, particularly physics, started rising and developing. Up to the mid of the last century though, it was still relatively unclear what light actually was. Its accurate exploration was only made possible by an understanding of science that had its origins in the early stages of the Enlightenment: the reduction of observations to simple laws – a principle also used by Isaac Newton in the formulation of classical mechanics.
“That I can see what holds the world together at its core.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Mechanische Ente, Jaques de Vaucanson, 1738.
In 1738, Jacques de Vaucanson created in Paris a mechanical duck which fluttered its wings, drank water and even had a digestive tract. His dream was to create an artificial man – Mechanical Duck, Jaques de Vaucanson, 1738.
Classical mechanics had led to a world view which, from that point on, also changed the understanding of culture, state, society or spiritual life. Humanity attained a whole new self-confidence, detached from religious dogma and inspired by the spirit of the Enlightenment. For if the world follows definite physical laws and humanity is able to decipher them, it would not be long until all phenomena would eventually be fully explained and predicted. There lies a certain irony in the fact that light served as the first source of evidence for undermining this world view at the beginning of the 20th century, through the rise of quantum physics. Suddenly, there were theories that, under certain conditions, refuted the assumptions previously anchored in classical mechanics and in the theory of relativity. The unambiguous determinability was replaced by uncertainty and the exact calculation was replaced by probability.
“God does not play dice with the universe” – Albert Einstein
Patricia Enigl, IQOQI, Wien.
Viennese researchers play on “Schrödingers Cat” with entangled photon pairs and an aperture. The red photons never “interacted” with the object, but they show the cat shape – Patricia Enigl, IQOQI, Vienna.
Where the former principles promised to determine movement curves of flying objects – such as a celestial body – precisely, quantum theory limits itself to the prediction of curves weighted with probabilities. An understanding that shocked the physical world at the time. “God does not play dice with the universe“ is one of Albert Einstein‘s most famous quotes, who himself made valuable contributions to quantum physics. Also the phrase “spooky action at a distance“ that refers to the completely new phenomenon of entanglement belonged to Einstein‘s view. As many puzzles as quantum physics posed, its benefits are obvious: in everyday life it meets us in most technical devices, in electronic semiconductor elements and that way in every microchip, in magnetic resonance tomography, but also in lasers or light-emitting diodes. Quantum physics is therefore one of the best experimentally tested theories in physics.
“Understanding often goes much further than reason” – Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
However, that has not led yet to the questioning of the absolute, deterministic conception of the world and the universe. Quantum physics is over 100 years old now and it is very easy to find many good quotes by its founders from the time of its beginnings. In this day and age however, its understanding is limited to peripheral areas of physics and has not yet really come to enter other sectors of society. For that to happen, young people should come in touch with quantum physics and have the chance to understand its phenomena using a learning-by-doing approach. This is the “Enlightenment claim“ of the Quantenkoffer.