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Science and the Environment

Physics Sometime Sounds Weirder Than It Is

When people hear about the newest breakthroughs in physics, their imaginations can sometimes get the best of them.  So it goes when you talk about the strange world of quantum behavior.  Over the last decade and a half, experimental work has developed a theoretical idea which sprang from the fertile mind of Albert Einstein; that of quantum teleportation.  Even though Einstein didn’t use that term and, in fact, wasn’t even a supporter of the theoretical postulate, the public loves the idea and sometimes leaps to the conclusion that soon we will be able to move matter from one place to another.  The reality is less earthshaking but still exciting, as we will discuss. 

A similar effect can be seen with the older concept of the second law of thermodynamics, i.e. the principle that entropy increases in a closed system.  From its misapplication in non-scientific areas such as religion to misunderstanding it when applied to impossibilities such as perpetual motion machines, the general public has been fascinated with the idea.  Now new work has explored the applicability of the law for small scales and confirms that information counts when entropy is considered.  Exciting, yes.  But it still won’t change the price of a gallon of milk.