Years ago I remember one of my fellow grad students posting a comic book style advert for a home study course in Quantum Physics. “Become a Quantum Mechanic! Cause Quantum Mechanics make big money! They eat steak!” – was the headline. I always sort of wished that there really was a way for people to play around with the ideas of Quantum Physics at home – renumeration aside – because it would help more of us get an intuitive grasp of the non-intuitive nature of the physics. (We don’t get quantum results because most of us have never experienced them…)
So imagine my delight this morning when I came across a blog on Scientific American talking about a new book hand’s on quantum physics experiments that could done at home. The title is “Exploring Quantum Physics Through Hands-On Projects” and it’s written by David Prutchi and his daughter Shanni Prutchi. It’s apparently filled with a number of home-brew projects that will let you “see” the quantum realm behavior directly. There’s even a website for the book that walks you step by step through the process.
Apparently the projects are non-trivial. They aren’t easy but their do-able. And the results are significant – like investigating entanglement directly:
“More than equipment, though, experimentation requires persistence. Shanni said she shudders at the effort it took to prove quantum spooky action at a distance. The principle is simple (see this video my colleagues and I made); the practice is a different story. For instance, the experiment requires light detectors that are sensitive enough to detect single photons, which means they are also prone to the tiniest sliver of stray light. David and Shanni kept them dark by enclosing the apparatus in a set of nested black boxes, which they had to open and close to make any adjustment—and an experiment of this sort requires a lot of adjustments. ‘I hated that black box,’ Shanni told me. ‘There were days I didn’t want to do the experiment. It was very frustrating, but it all paid off. We were actually able to disprove local hidden variables—and I’m a high-school senior.’”
That’s a pretty significant result. Never tried anything like it in the labs I taught or took in college or grad school. Maybe I just found something to occupy my time during the long dark New England winters…