Quantum physics meets rock and roll, with Australia's rockstar scientist

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-14 17:23:00|Editor: Lu Hui
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By Will Koulouris

SYDNEY, Aug. 14 (Xinhua) -- Quantum mechanics met rock and roll at an event in Sydney on Monday, as a rockstar scientist - and quantum physicist - explained the link between the rapidly emerging science and music.

As a physicist who is also a musician, David Reilly of the University of Sydney is a rockstar scientist, who used music to demonstrate the way in which quantum physics works to an enthralled crowd at the Sydney Recital Hall.

The physicist explained the process in an interview with Xinhua after the half-concert, half-lesson event, and said that the way in which a guitar produces sound can be applied to quantum physics.

"Guitars involve vibrations of strings, as those strings vibrate, you'll see the vibration is made up of lots of different notes. There's a vibrational mode associated with the length of the guitar string but there's also modes that are associated with half the length, a quarter of the length, an eighth ... and all those modes are happening at the same time," Reilly said.

"That's how we think about the wavelike nature in objects of quantum physics, like electrons and atoms, they also have vibrational modes and you can switch between those different modes, just like you can on a guitar."

The scientist, who spends his downtime laying down tracks on his five guitars that he has at home, said that his current projects in the laboratory are aimed at taking the waves that exist in all matter, including musical notes, and finding real world applications.

"Right now we are trying to understand how to use these vibrational modes, just like a guitar string, to do new computing, encoding information using the waves of not strings, but of electrons," Reilly said.

"Waves that exist at a nanoscale level, one billionth of a metre."

In the laboratory at the moment, Reilly said that his team is currently attempting to build tiny devices - ones that exist at a level the size of singular molecules - in order to help "fully understand" the fundamental aspects of quantum physics.

But, the rockstar scientist is adamant that taking complex science and making it simple and accessible through music - or other means - is crucial, especially with his own chosen field, quantum physics.

"Quantum mechanics is the most successful theory we have, in anything. It's given us all our technology, from the transistor to the laser, you name it, the microphones and cameras we use, everything owes its existence to quantum physics." Reilly said.