DIY Friday: Quantum Eraser Experiment

I’ll be the first one to admit that I don’t REALLY get the ideas behind quantum mechanics. Sure, I have a loose idea of what it is, somehow managing to bring complexity and relativity into the precise world of classic, Newtonian physics — you know, something to do with light being both waves and particles at the same time — but if you ask me to go into any more depth I’ll either fake it or redirect your attention to a funny cartoon I saw in the New Yorker last week.

But my lack of knowledge shouldn’t mean that you should be deprived on an excellent DIY Friday that focuses like a laser beam (ha ha, RFLMAO) on one of the central cases for the necessity of quantum theory, the double-slit experiment, that you can do it home.

First and foremost, before you even try the experiment I’ll link to below, do yourself a favor and check out the Dr. Quantum YouTube video below to get a basic handle on the experiment. The visualizations mean that, even if you’re a dolt like me, you’ll understand just why you’ll want to do this experiment yourself.

If you’re interested in the larger question of observer effects in quantum theory and you don’t mind delving a bit into the philosophy of science (the only way I had stumbled into this whole quantum theory business before), do a little reading on the famous Schrödinger’s cat thought experiment… its good fun and it’ll, again, make the DIY experiment a little more thought provoking.

Finally, if you’re ready to go for the good stuff, check out Scientific American’s DIY Quantum Erasure experiment page and learn how to do the double-slit experiment on your own all while working through the paradox posed by Schrödinger’s work. Also be sure to check out the awesome slide show SA has for the experiment (which shows how to conduct the experiment in a little more detail) and some other neat online extras.

Not looking to delve that deeply into the major problems of contemporary physics this weekend? Well, just watch the video below and laugh comfortably knowing that now you have the knowledge necessary to make your own video on a physics superhero too.

The Quantum EraserThe funniest bloopers are right here