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Superconducting magnets are one of the most powerful electromagnet known to mankind; they are used in MRI and particle accelerators. They can also be used in making digital circuits and in SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices), which are the most sensitive magnetometers known. Future applications of superconductivity include power storage devices, transformer and magnetic levitations devices, all of which seem promising and achievable. Overall we can say that the quantum world is a very weird and strange place.

However it is a stranger place when we combine it with a rather overlooked area of science, areas of sub zero temperatures. As mankind advanced technologically, we discovered we could dive lower and lower down the scale, until we could reach temperatures of one billionth of a degree above absolute zero. In that journey we found the existence of perhaps new phases of matters, superfluids and superconductors, things that did not obey classical physics but instead the strange rules of quantum theory.

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What may the future hold for this field of science, as we progress further down the scale, will new matter be created or discovered, and will we actually one day be able to conquer the final frontier, to reach absolute zero or even beyond it? It is hard to imagine and understand the world of particles, which is almost like another universe, governed by a completely abstract set of rules.

It seems to be impossible to imagine what the ‘big’ world would be like if quantum theory was applied to it. For example, George Gamow had tried to illustrate what our universe would be like if such rules were applied in his wonderful stories about Mr Tompkins. In one instance Mr Tompkins was playing billiards with ‘quantum’ billiards balls, in which when he hit the white ball; it travelled in ever single possible direction.

However such a theory also caused a whole lot of other interpretations to be proposed, ranging from the mind boggling existence parallel universes to the controversial theory of the involvement of human consciousness as I have mentioned earlier. Apart from the demonstrations I have already described, there are other cases in which we can actually see quantum theory in action. One of the most famous experiments is the proof for wave-particle duality of light. However, this experiment actually demonstrates some support of the observer effect, in other words, the effect of human consciousness.

If we make an experiment which proves that light is a wave, then the light particles will behave as a wave and only that. However, if we make an experiment that supports that idea that it follows the behaviour of particles, then the light would abandon its wavelike properties and act as a particle. Perhaps the wise words of Richard Feynman as mentioned earlier are able to sum up quantum theory for us; simply no one can understand it.

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Kylie Garcia

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