All About Space

Why can’t relativity and quantum mechanics get along?

Quantum mechanics

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Particles are waves and waves are particles

This wave-particle duality is central to quantum physics. Light can be thought of as being made of particles called photons, or as a propagatin­g electromag­netic wave.

All properties are ‘quantised’

Values in quantum physics are a bit like shoes – they only come in set sizes. Physicists call these ‘quanta’. An electron, for example, can only orbit the atomic nucleus in a limited number of configurat­ions.

Objects exist in many states at once

Physicists say electrons exist in a ‘superposit­ion’ of states. It’s not in a definite state until we measure it, and beforehand we can only assign probabilit­ies to the likely outcome.

Non-locality: spooky action at distance

Take a pair of entangled particles, change the properties of one and the other will change instantly. Einstein called this ‘spooky action at distance’ and was deeply disturbed by it.

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