Since the 1930s, descriptions of the behavior of atoms in the quantum world have been hidden inside complex Hamiltonians, mathematical symphonies of SU(N) symmetry (which also describe the subatomic zoo of quarks and leptons), and whispers of strange laws such as the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle. Naturally, virtually none of these quantum behaviors resemble anything we’re familiar with in the classical world of solid walls, cats that are either alive or dead, and people who predictably occupy just one place in the Universe at any given time. Other than the fact that evidence is mounting that the exotic quantum world gives rise to everything we are and think we know about the world, there simply isn’t much we’re familiar with in everyday experience that helps us understand how things work in the quantum world.
This situation has been a bit of a nightmare for those of us who like to use analogies to familiar things to explain the inner workings of physics and other sciences to the general public. In particular, how do we explain quantum physics to our friends and neighbors?
Initially, explaining quantum physics to nonscientists appeared to be an insurmountable problem. But then, we remembered the lovely and mathematically logical tale written by Charles Dodgson in 1865. Though now remembered under his pseudonym of Lewis Carroll, Dodgson described a fantastical world through the eyes of a 10-year old girl, Alice, in two books: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.
Inspired by his wonderful books as children, we decided to launch a new 21st century book about the extraordinary and fantastic quantum world. We call it Alice in Quantumland. The first chapter is called Lost inside a strontium-lattice atomic watch. We hope you enjoy it!