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Examples of quantum mechanics that can be seen in every-day life

Examples of quantum mechanics that can be seen in every-day life | Science |
The weird effects that show up in quantum mechanics (a lot of them anyway) are due to the wave-nature of the world making itself more apparent. What we normally think of as “particle behavior” is just what happens when the waves you’re talking about are very small (compared to what’s around) and are “decoherent” (which means the frequency, phase and polarization are all pretty random between one photon and the next). It’s a long way from obvious (there’s some math) but, for example, the way light streams through gaps is governed entirely by the wave-nature of light, and not because it’s a particle. In addition to light’s waviness, it also has polarization (which is a fundamentally not-particle thing to have). The polarization of light affects how it reflects off of a surface (like water) and how it scatters in a gas (like air). If you happen to look at the sky reflecting off of a lake these effects are combined, and at one particular angle they fight each other. The amount of light that reflects off of a surface depends on the polarization of that light, which is why polarized glasses are sold to drivers to cut down on glare. It so happens that if vertically polarized light hits water at about 37° none of it will be reflected (this is called “Brewster’s angle“). Because of the way light scatters in air, if you point your hand at any point in the sky (other than the Sun), and turn your palm toward the Sun, then the flat of your hand will be aligned with the polarization of the light coming from that part of the sky. As a result, right around dawn and dusk the entire sky is polarized in the north-south direction. One consequence of this is that if you’re standing at the right angle early or late in the day, and the sky (not the Sun) is your primary light source, then the face on your digital watch can appear black. Another is that if you look at the sky in a still lake, at about 37° from level, during dawn or dusk, while looking either north or south, you’ll find that the sky isn’t reflected at all and appears black.
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