News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Meaden & Moore

Hennes Paynter Communications

Wayside Furniture


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Science and Technology




Exploradio - Quantum philosophy
The rules governing the universe become increasingly mysterious the smaller you look.  Quantum theory holds some, but not all the answers.
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
The sub-atomic world operates by its own set of mysterious rules described in part by quantum theory. Scientists may never fully understand the rules of the universe, but that doesn't stop them from trying.
Courtesy of V. Castelo
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

There’s more to matter than the protons and electrons we learned in high school.  Scientists have discovered a whole menagerie of subatomic particles that behave in mysterious ways, following their own set of rules called quantum mechanics. 

In this week’s Exploradio we dive into the deep world of the very small with Kent State University physics professor Peter Tandy.

Exploradio - Quantum philosophy

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:22)


Tandy on the 'God particle'

Other options:
MP3 Download (4:46)


(Click image for larger view.)

T: I do mathematical computer calculations of the interactions and the behavior of subatomic particles. I specialize in the interactions of the quarks and the gluons that make protons and neutrons and other subatomic particles.

STC: Many of us are familiar with the term proton and neutron and electron. You’re saying those themselves have components. Do we know, for example, what a quark is?

T: We know what they are in the sense that we have a lot of experiments that probe the degree to which protons and neutrons and pions and other particles are composed of quarks and gluons. And so we have many tens of thousands of experiments, and we can correlate all of that and understand with one mathematical theory.

STC: And what’s that?

T: That’s a theory in the general class of theories called relativistic quantum field theories. There’s only one big problem with this situation. The interaction between quarks and gluons is such that most physicists believe we can never get an isolated quark going into some detector or some experiment. No one has ever measured or detected a quark. No one’s ever detected a gluon. And it’s the nature of the mathematical structure of the field theory that says you can’t get these things far enough apart to be by themselves.

STC: What is the interaction between the world that you deal in, the quantum world, and the everyday world we have in front of us.

T: These days a lot of physics technology research has to do with what’s called nanoscale materials. Materials that are a little bit larger than an atom, about the size of a molecule or two, but not so large that ordinary Newton’s Laws of Motion and Interaction apply. But in an intermediate regime where it’s going to have some quantum mechanics, some quantum field theory-like behavior, and some behavior like we’re used to, in the micron range.

STC: Can you give an example of that where quantum mechanics that you’re describing, this theoretical world . . . that we interact with it in our world?

T: Well, the standard computer chip works like quantum mechanics. The computer chip is, these days, a very small physical thing, and its size is such that quantum mechanics is the operating principle in which it’s based.

STC: Like in your cell phone.

T: Yeah, your cell phone, or an iPad. Anything that uses a computer chip is quantum mechanics.

STC: So you’re saying the electronic circuitry in the chip is actually not behaving in accordance with Newton’s Laws but the quantum laws.

T: Yes. There’s the certain types of materials we call semi-conductors. When they were discovered in about the 50s, the first transistors were made. It’s this property of a semi-conductor that needs quantum mechanics for its operation.

STC: The work that you’re doing, trying to explain the nature of matter, is so elevated above the realm of most people’s understanding. Does it ever influence your understanding in a more spiritual sense or philosophical sense of who or what we are?

T: A little bit. My goals are more mundane just trying to understand the experiments that we have. And it’s very true when you do the sort of research you find that nature does work according to very specific, very simple, and very clear mathematical equations, and why should that be. This gets to a topic: is mathematics invented or discovered? I think we invent it in order to explain nature. Some people believe that there is not going to be some ultimate theory of everything. You just going to keep probing at smaller and smaller distance scales, larger and larger energy, and you’ll keep modifying and improving a theory and it will never terminate.

STC: It’s infinite.

T: It’s infinite. So if it did terminate, what are we going to do? What do people like me do when we know the theory of everything?

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

A small group of tea party and Democrats protest at Kasich campaign stop
Enjoyed your excellent coverage of the statehouse for sometime now, never dreamed I'd be on. The feedback from people has been great. Thank you. Doris Adams

Top staffers are leaving the FitzGerald gubernatorial campaign
I's too bad that the dirt on Fitzgerald dug up by Kasich's operatives and publicized heavily by the Yellow Plain Dealer has caused the weak staffers of the Fitz...

Churches come together to welcome and include Gay Games athletes
Nicely done!!! A little known fact about the El Salvadoran and Columbian scholarships.. A big thank you to the Faith Community for their support of Gay Games 9....

What do Ohio farmers need to do to control Lake Erie problems?
This was a great article, thank you, Karen Schaefer. There was an error- Roger Wise is the past president of the Ohio Farmer's Union; not the Ohio Farm Bureau ...

Registration for the 2014 Gay Games ends Monday at midnight
Judy Benson and Sally Tatnall are loved and appreciated by all in our community and throughout the US for their untiring work for OLOC and for educating the com...

Like any family, the Gay Games has its generation gaps
Great article ... important perspective.

Gay Games rodeo: Changing stereotypes
Robin, Thank you for a fine piece of recorded history. This is history in the making; a gay, Asian man, one of the last bronc riders in IGRA, and Rodeo at Gay G...

Ohio lawmakers hold hearing on prison food problems
So you fine them..this has been going onand the law makers are aware of this issue.I have been told by many about the maggots and rotten food not fit for a dog ...

Interview with early Beatle Pete Best
"the Leshdu (?) Quartet.." Actually that's the Les Stewart Quartet. George Harrison was in that band at the same time as the Quarry Men.

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University