What is "quantum" anyway?

Classical physics gives us a set of laws and mathematical principles that allow us to make sense of what we see and to predict how objects will behave, and a language to describe what we perceive. Classical physics makes sense in the physical world: the world we experience through our senses.

However, the actual fabric of our reality is stitched together with mysterious threads, and at the atomic level the laws of classical physics no longer apply. In classical physics, every cause produces a specific, expected effect; quantum physics does not follow those same rules.

Quantum physics offers probability, but not certainty; it gives us new rules, and along with that, a much deeper way to understand life, the universe, and, well, everything!

Upcoming talks

June 15: Tiny Devices and Huge Detectors (6:30 PM PDT)

Kirsty Gardner, PhDJoin postdoctoral researcher and experimental physicist Dr. Kirsty Gardner for a look behind the scenes of the LIGO project, and how quantum materials scientists are working to make gravitational wave detectors more sensitive to the vibrations of the universe.

Gardner’s talk will coincide with Pride Month, and in addition to talking about her work as an experimental physicist working to improve our ability to see into space, she’ll also touch on her experience as someone who is queer in STEM.

Okay but wait … what is “Unboxing Quantum?”

Unboxing Quantum is a public seminar series in which researchers at the Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute at The University of British Columbia talk about what they’re working on, and why it matters to you. Presented in plain language, this series makes quantum science accessible: our goal is to provide meaningful, interesting information about quantum science and technology to general audiences.

Why now?

Canada has long been a leader in quantum science and technological innovation. In 2021, the Government of Canada announced a significant investment to fund a National Quantum Strategy, committing $360 million over seven years and signaling its intention to grow the uniquely interconnected Canadian quantum industry into a global leader.

Quantum science is increasingly relevant to everyday Canadians, as innovations in the field will lead to new tools and technologies, new careers and educational opportunities, and new economic benefits.

Join us as we explore the fun side of quantum, and we’ll make sure you learn something useful along the way!

What do cats have to do with any of this?

Schrodinger’s cat paradox is a famous thought experiment in which a hypothetical cat is trapped in a box containing a vial of poison and a radioactive substance; if the radiation is released, the vial of poison will shatter and the cat will perish. The paradox is meant to illustrate the idea of quantum superposition, in which it is impossible to know the properties of something – in this case, whether the cat is alive or dead, without observing it directly. It’s a way of explaining a complex quantum phenomenon in a way that sticks with you!

Past talks

On May 16, 2022, PhD student, Vanier Scholar, and experimental physicist MengXing (Ketty) Na presented an illuminating look at what the interaction between light and materials tells us about the world we live in.