Saturday, June 4, 2011

Tracking photons through the classic double-slit experiment

This week, an exciting new experiment has been published in Science. Funnily enough, it repeats an experiment that is over 200 years old, and I am not certain that it teaches us anything new about the world. But it puts the weirdness of quantum mechanics on display for all to see. And it allows me to get sidetracked by history and generally ignore the work in question except in passing.

A bit of history

In 1803, Thomas Young published a paper on an experiment that has not just become famous, but is, in fact, the workhorse paper of quantum mechanics. In his experiment, light was passed through two closely spaced and narrow slits. Some distance after the slits, the light hit a screen so that the resulting intensity pattern could be observed.

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