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A short introduction to quantum mechanics for everyone

Quantum mechanics, the theory underlying all of modern science, remains mysterious to almost everyone, including many scientists. But at least some aspects of this sometimes confusing theory can now be demonstrated with (relatively) simple experiments. In this lecture, we will show you the 'wave-particle duality' of Niels Bohr live in an optical interferometer to give a short introduction to quantum mechanics for everyone.

Quantum mechanics, the theory developed by the likes of Bohr, Einstein and Schrödinger around 1920, has become the basis for modern physics, chemistry and, increasingly, the life sciences as well. Much of our modern technology, including computers, cell-phones, and the global positioning system (GPS), is based on it. In the not-so-distant future we might see even more 'quantum technology' enter our lives in the form of a new type of quantum computer, quantum enhanced sensing in medicine and other sciences, or secure quantum communication.

Yet, quantum mechanics remains a somewhat complicated theory taught almost exclusively at university level and shrouded in some mystery through decades of complicated and sometimes misleading language. As with everything else, the best way to change this and to remove the perplexity often coming along with quantum mechanics, is to see it with your own eyes. What used to be famous 'thought-experiments' by Einstein and Bohr can now be tested with often relatively simple experiments. 

In this talk, we will run and discuss such an experiment, Young's double slit with single photons, live. You will be able to 'see' single photons - the elementary particles of light - and you can wonder for yourself how such particles go through two slits - or how much sense such 'classical' language makes.

The talk assumes no prior knowledge of quantum mechanics. It will introduce the basic concepts in a non-mathematical way for anyone with a general interest in science.

Practical information:
Students can examine and perform the experiment themselves.

The presentation is in English.