Quantum Computing – Electron Boogaloo – Extra History – #2
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Quantum Computing – Electron Boogaloo – Extra History – #2

It was the heroic age of science. Within sixty years we had discovered the first law of electrodynamics, put forth the theory of evolution and the germ theory of disease. We had established absolute zero and come to understand that electricity and magnetism are not two separate forces, but simply different manifestations of the electromagnetic field. We had begun to unlock the secrets of radiation and to speculate about the atom itself. But in 1905, one man would top it all with what will forever be known as the “annus mirabilis” the miracle year [music] In 1905, Albert Einstein changed the way we think about physics forever with four extraordinary papers. Each on its own could have been the achievement of a lifetime for anyone, but this humble patent clerk gave us all four, one after another. His most famous papers are perhaps those on relativity, the first of which, Special Relativity, showed us that the speed of light in a vacuum is fixed – not dependent on the motion of the light source. And from these complex workings we would get the concept of Space-time: the idea that, just as electricity and magnetism are one thing, space and time are one thing and can affect each other. Meaning things like gravity and speed can distort time itself. It’s where we get all those fun ideas science fiction loves to play with, like the fact that time goes slower for someone traveling near the speed of light. The second of these relativity papers, General Relativity, gave us the most famous equation of all time: E equals MC squared The seemingly counter-intuitive idea that mass and energy are interchangeable. That objects, just by existing, have energy. Not potential energy, not kinetic energy, but the energy of their mass. It’s the reason why when we split an atom an incredible force is let loose. Then there’s his conceptually simplest paper. For decades, a strange physical phenomena had gone unexplained. A delicious-sounding phenomenon called “Brownian Motion” You see, there was this guy named Brown and when he was looking at tiny grains of pollen suspended in water, he noticed that no matter how still he tried to make his slide, the pollen grains would jitter. They almost seemed to randomly walk around the droplet and, just to make sure it wasn’t some odd property of pollen, he tried this with other things including a piece of the Sphinx, you know, just to be thorough, I guess. And, yup, up even the Sphinx did that weird little dance? No one could figure out why this happened, until Einstein showed, fairly conclusively, that Brownian motion (as they had come to call it) had to be the result of all of the surrounding water molecules and their constituent atoms jostling the much larger specks of pollen. Well, this may not seem like a huge revelation to us today, at the time there was still a lot of debate on whether or not atoms were a real thing. But the math in this paper not only proved that they were real, it even gave scientists a way to derive how many atoms were in an area through careful observation of Brownian motion. But it’s really Einstein’s other paper that I want to talk about today. The first of the four he actually released. challenged even his understanding for the rest of his life. This is the paper that he won the Nobel Prize for: his paper on the Photoelectric effect This is the one we touched on last time, where he demonstrated that energy comes as quanta. That it doesn’t come in a flow, but in discrete packets. That it’s not like a stream of water. This idea flies in the face of classical physics. Maxwell, when establishing electromagnetism, had shown the wave-like properties of light so how could something wave-like only come in discrete packets? Even Planck – the very man who had, reluctantly, introduced the world to the possibility of energy being quantized – once introduced Einstein by saying, “He had done so much for physics, we should forgive him for being overzealous in thinking the photon was a real thing.” But Planck wasn’t the only skeptic of note. There was another by the name of Niels Bohr. Bohr’s early life couldn’t have been more different than Einstein’s. Where Einstein was poor, Bohr was wealthy. Where Einstein’s father came from a failed business, Bohr’s was one of the most connected in all of academia. Where Einstein struggled at school, Bohr excelled. But with such different backgrounds, it makes sense that these two men, these two friends, came at the problem of the quanta differently. When Einstein proclaimed to the quanta’s existence to the world, Bohr at first rejected it. But once Bohr did embrace the idea of the quanta, he embraced it fully, it taking it further than even Einstein was willing to go, chasing it to its logical extreme. You see, at this time the scientific world was still struggling with the concept of the atom. Einstein had helped to establish that atoms existed, but what were they? What did an atom look like? What was the physical model for it? How did it work? Well, Bohr made his name by giving us a new model for the atom. It’s the one you probably learned in high school. And though we’ve actually developed a far more accurate model for it since, Bohr’s model is still one of the easiest to understand. In his model, In his model, electrons orbit the nucleus of an atom like planets around a Sun. Nice and simple! People had considered similar possibilities before, but Bohr’s big innovation was realizing that if energy comes in quanta, which is to say discrete units, and electrons’ orbits are dependent on their energy state, then electrons orbiting a nucleus could only exist at very specific distances from that nucleus. They couldn’t just be wherever they wanted. This is where we get those concentric rings of electrons around the atom that you probably saw in high school. But there’s an issue with that model. Something that they probably tactfully glossed over in your high school science class. And you might have already guessed it. So, if electrons can only exist in fixed orbits and very specific distances from the nucleus, based on the quanta of energy, and if, when an electron loses or gains energy it moves to a different orbit, How does it get there? Like we established, they can only exist at fixed distances from the nucleus, not anywhere in between. So, do they teleport? What is this bizarre quantum leap they’re taking? Well, now everyone had to start figuring that out. Because Bohr’s model fit with a lot of what was being seen experimentally and this led people to follow that rabbit hole to its extreme. People started to conjecture that if light can act like a particle AND a wave, maybe matter can too. And, if we accept that, then we have to start seeing not just light but the entire world as probabilistic. We can start looking at events as waves of possible outcomes that collapse into a single reality when they are observed. And when we start doing that, weird stuff starts rolling out of our math. It’s from here that we get the famous Uncertainty Principle, which states that the more we know about one complementary property of a particle, the less we can know about the property it complements. For example, take position and velocity. The Uncertainty Principle says that the more we know about where a particle is, the less we can know about how it’s traveling and If we accept that, this idea that we can’t actually know all properties of a given system at a given time with absolute certainty, it’s just a tiny leap from there to say physical systems don’t exist in states of absolute certainty, just in a space of possibilities with more or less likely outcomes. That there is no underlying absolute reality for us to ever get ahold of. [exhales] Just gotta breathe for a second. [sips drink] [exhales] And it was this last idea, that last leap of logic that Einstein couldn’t abide. He, who had to push so hard for the photon and had so often been met with derision from his fellow scientists because they rejected a notion that fundamentally broke their understanding of how the world worked, was now doing the same thing to the next generation of physicists. But, he had a point. Could quantum mechanics actually be considered a complete theory if it only dealt in probabilities? Didn’t there have to be something underlying at all that our probabilities were describing, but that we had yet to completely grasp? Wouldn’t it be a disservice to science just to accept that this was the way the world worked, and look at things probabilistically rather than dig into the reality which Einstein so ardently believed these probabilities had to spring from? Well, at the Solveig conference in 1927 as the greatest minds of a generation looked on, Einstein and Bohr these two titans of physics, these two friends would debate just that. So join us next time for the Einstein v. Bohr debates and the conception of our world that came out of them [music]


  • Extra Credits

    Einstein wanted to know: could Quantum Mechanics actually be considered a complete theory if it only dealt in probabilities? What reality were those probabilities based on?

  • NikovK

    The casual racism of the Irish paperboy in this episode, the reverse racism of a female Muslim physicist in the next episode. And what's with the new narrator?

  • TheMakersRage

    The energy-mass equivalence relation has nothing to do with general relativity, which by the way, wasn't fully conceived until 1915. I was disappointed with this episode after such a promising first.

  • Psy McDad

    4:40 It is a common missconception that Einstein was bad at school. Well, it is true that his School report from 1896 had 5 times the number 6, wich in Germany and Austria are the worst grade, equal to F. However: Einstein visited a school in Switzerland at that time, and there a "6" is the best possible grade, equal to a german 1 or an american A. The worst grade Einstein had in this report was a 3 (4/D) in french. He was a pain in the ass for his teachers nevertheless, tho, as he considered the school-system backwards and unfunctional and made little to no effort to hide this sentiment.

  • Banana Narwhals

    So, there is a chance that YouTube crashes when I click on the next video, and a chance I miss click the next video and go to John green, and a chance I actually click on the next video, just as soon as I attempt to hit the next video, all the possibilities are taken into account, and a random action is arbitrarily chosen based on the percent chance of the action. You can’t tell with certainty what will happen, but over enough attempts to hit the next video, it will form a pattern. Am I in the general vicinity of some sembalance of understanding anything about what this video is talking about?

  • Lars L

    Correction: Einstein did not struggle at school, he taught himself algebra and Euclidean geometry over a single summer when he was TWELVE.. He read Kants critique of pure reasoning at age 13, and understood it. Nor was his family particular poor – for they could afford a private tutor for Einstein.

  • Mr. Oof

    Also a shout out to Albert Einstein for making America have the great idea of making atomic bombs. (Also this might be wrong but I am trying to be funny)

  • ika s bramantya

    I hoped school taught me this as a pre material before entering quantum physics subject…
    Most of the learning material i couldnt understand back then, since, unlike other physic 's subject in school, was quite imaginary

  • Wolf Voigt

    Einstein went in Switzerland to school, the grading system is different 6 is the best mark and 1 the worst, the opposite of the German system. Even he was a German, he wasn’t always in a German school.

  • Baldur Jökull

    4:41 Einstein actually excelled at school, the myth probably came from the fact that in the first semster 1 was the highest grade and 6 lowest, and in the second semester 6 was the highest and 1 lowest. Einstein first got 1’s and then 6’s.

  • ffggddss

    Just before the 1-minute mark – You've got 3 of Einstein's 4 achievements of 1905 correct. General Relativity wasn't one of them; it took him 10 more years to do that.
    His 4th achievement was the solution of the diffusion equation.
    1m 47s – E = mc² is not from GenRel (1915); it's from SpecRel (1905). GenRel gave us the Einstein field equations, G = 8πT.


  • Fermion Physics

    There are many mistakes made in this video. I don’t think that I need to address them since you can easily just find them in the comments. Maybe you can edit the video and change all the false info in there, but otherwise, great video 👍

  • GiggitySam Entz

    The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle can actually be stumbled into when doing chemistry. I used NMR to study molecules, and if you try hard enough to figure out the exact spin energy of the nuclei, you can run into a wall: detecting the change in energy is such a precise time information that you don't get as much information about the energy x)

  • PaunchyRobot

    One of the strangest things about Bohr's model of the atom is that, before developing it, he had a clear vision of it in a dream: "In time, he set upon understanding the structure of the atom, but none of his configurations would fit. One night he went to sleep and began dreaming about atoms. He saw the nucleus of the atom, with electrons spinning around it, much as planets spin around their sun. Immediately on awakening, Bohr felt the vision was accurate. But as a scientist he knew the importance of validating his idea before announcing it to the world. He returned to his lab and searched for evidence to support his theory."


  • radzewicz

    Wrong #1: The four papers of annus mirabulus were: Photoelectric effect, Brownian motion, Special relativity, Mass–energy equivalence. General relativity came 10 years later, 1915.Wrong #2: He did not show that the speed of light was fixed. He postulated that the speed of light was fixed and showed what conclusions that brought. (Maxwell showed that the speed of light in a vacuum was fixed).Sorta Wrong: Gravity should be paired with acceleration, not speed. But gravity and speed and acceleration do distort time.Wrong #3: Objects have energy by virtue of their  rest mass, not existence. And it is potential energy.Wrong #4: He didn't "demonstrate" that energy occurs in quanta. He took Plank's assumption of quanta and used that to explain the photoelectric effect.Wrong #5: Einstein did not "struggle at school". Einstein was a top student, even in grade school.Wrong #6: Not "distances"! Electrons exist at fixed "energy levels" from the nucleus. Not all electron orbits are spherical! And the orbits are NOT concentric nor are they fixed, they have a distribution!Otherwise, good video.

  • Joseph Noonan

    There are some misstatements about relativity here. Special relativity doesn't say that gravity affects time. General relativity says that. Special relativity is "special" because it refers to the special case of spacetime that is not warped by gravity.
    Also, special relativity didn't prove that the speed of light is constant. It was based on the previously established result that the speed of light was constant, which it took as a postulate. Michelson and Morley were the ones who showed that motion doesn't affect the speed of light relative to the observer.
    Finally, E=MC^2 was part of special relativity. Technically it's also part of general relativity since special relativity is part of general relativity, but it isn't a component that distinguishes the two theories as the video implies.

  • Árón de Siún

    Special relativity did not show us that the speed of light in vacuo is fixed, we knew that from Maxwell, rather, it too that as a postulate and worked out what the fixed speed meant for space and time. As my lecturer used say, a guess, whose only justification, is that it works.

  • Árón de Siún

    We got e = mc^2 from special relativity, not general relativity. General relativity was not in 1905 but ten years later in 1915

  • James Sowin

    Einstein did not have bad grades. That's a myth. He did very well in science math and physics. His poorest grades were in French.

  • Lord Mordington

    Is it common for high schools to only teach the Bohr model, or is that only true if you don't take extra chemistry classes? In my experience the quantum mechanical model was used quite a lot.

  • Rifle 223

    So, at time 1:31 in the video, I recognize the drawings representing Doctor Who and Star Trek, but I don't know what the third one is supposed to be.
    Does anyone know it?

  • dragonfiremalus

    I like this video for explainy stuff, but there are too many thing that are just wrong. Mass energy is not a result of general relativity, and predated GR by 10 years. Einstein did not struggle in school, he excelled in school. I would also call the glossing-over of Maxwell a serious omission when discussing the nature of light. Maxwell's equations are a huge part of the nature of light, and foundational to the development of relativity and quantum mechanics.

  • GDI

    The universe is deterministic. A wave function is simply a model that we use to attempt to describe our observations. Our inability to predict an outcome is completely irrelevant to the outcome. Not only that, but there could be a pattern that allows us to predict quantum mechanical outcomes. How arrogant can you be to assume that you would have found that pattern by now?


    hey Extra Credits
    say i had a spaceship that was going at the speed of light(probably not going to happen but lets just go with it. or 99.99% the speed) and you shone a light infont of you what would happen? would you make some sort of light boom. and what would you see?

  • Mark Lumley

    Einstein did not have difficulties in school, this is a myth created to prop up the confidence of kids who really didn't do well in school. Do you really think someone as smart as Einstein would do poorly in school? If his grades were not the best it was only do to his lack of desire to complete that course work and not because he "struggled". Yes this has been investigated but the myth is too good of a propaganda tool and is therefore believed. Goes to prove the point that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes truth.

  • TechnoSpiral Gamer

    At 5:44 the planets are neutral but electrons are charged. Charged particles will lose energy if they are in motion according to classical mechanics

  • Joonha Shcal

    I pity Americans if they learn Bohr's Atomic Model in high school. I learned that in middle school when I was 11. We had the Orbital Model (Heisenberg) in our Junior Year in high school.

  • David Halliday

    You do know that Einstein’s General Relativity (GR) was /not/ published in Einstein’s “Miracle year”, but a decade later. Right?

    Furthermore, E = m c^2 did /not/ come from GR, but came along with Special Relativity (SR).

  • Nikesh Kumar

    Don't worry it took me 3 years as I started studying Quantum mechanics out of my own self interest in my 9th grade to wrap my head around it

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