The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

CU community entangles with IQUIST for World Quantum Day

Nina Athanasopoulos
Will Vargo, Henry Bonzak, Christian Pytel make liquid nitrogen ice cream on World Quantum Day for The Physics Van, a science demonstration.

The Illinois Quantum Information Science and Technology Center (IQUIST) brought quantum mechanics to the Champaign-Urbana public on April 13 in celebration of World Quantum Day. 

The event highlights the achievements of quantum science and technology worldwide, where the University took a (quantum) leap with demos, guest lectures and more.

According to the California Institute of Technology, quantum physics is the study of matter and energy at the most fundamental level: the scale of atoms. World Quantum Day is officially April 14 every year to honor Planck’s constant, a fundamental constant in quantum physics of which the first digits are 4.14. 

The event began with a presentation from Chad Orzel, author and Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Union College in New York, about where to find quantum physics in one’s daily life.

“You can find quantum mechanics in everyday activities — in the working of a clock, in LED lights, in refrigerator magnets — they’re fundamentally quantum mechanical,” Orzel said. “If you know where to look, quantum mechanics is everywhere.” 

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The event garnered attention from quantum enthusiasts from a variety of backgrounds, including University moms who paid the Electrical and Computer Engineering Building (ECEB) a visit to see booths on topics from atomic structure to entanglement.

The coordinators, speakers and booth runners encouraged attendees to explore how quantum mechanics might find its way into their lives using cards with different quantum terms and — a fan favorite — liquid nitrogen ice cream. 

“We live in the same world as everyone else,” Orzel said. “It’s phenomena that show up in everyday kinds of situations that lead us to quantum physics. The situations that quantum physics shows up in are more familiar than you might think. It’s something you see every time you heat something up for breakfast.” 

Orzel went on to explain the red light that can be seen in toaster ovens is more related to quantum physics than one might think. The energy emitted from elements that have been heated up is restricted to certain wavelengths, with each color having a different wavelength. The objects being heated just happen to glow the color red, followed by yellow and white.

Brian DeMarco, professor of Physics at the University, said “Everybody loves quantum physics! It’s the basis of our modern technology and it’s all around us.” 

While the event was put on by IQUIST, community members from across C-U were welcome to entangle with quantum physics, with some traveling to attend the celebration. 

“I have a friend studying physics at UIUC, so initially I was more here to be with them, but I ended up learning a lot! I like feeling like a quantum person for a day,” Chicago resident Carly Gutierrez said. “I’m not a physicist after today, but I get the appeal is what I’m saying.”

Community members and visitors beamed and tunneled around the space, with a variety of demos available for exploring. These included a light polarization demo from LabEscape and a presentation of quantum computing, with experts at every booth to answer questions and show off their work.

“First of all, I think we have an awesome and welcoming campus and a terrific community,” DeMarco said on the turnout of the event. “I think people like to get together and I think we have terrific spaces like ECEB to do these events in. The other thing is we really know how to engage the community. We think deeply about how we connect with a wide range of people and so I think we’re good at bringing people together.”

The overall purpose of the event and the World Quantum Day celebration is to bring quantum physics to the public and celebrate the achievements in the field. Speakers and coordinators focused on offering listeners a glimpse into thinking like a quantum physicist.

“Quantum mechanics has a reputation as a very intimidating and abstract branch of physics,” Orzel said. “Except that’s not true. Physicists are scientists, the theory exists as it does because physicists were led to it from clues that are visible from the ordinary everyday reality that we all live in.”


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