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Posts Tagged ‘Walter Brattain

“The ‘paradox’ is only a conflict between reality and your feeling of what reality ‘ought to be’”*…

John Stewart Bell (1928-1990), the Northern Irish physicist whose work sparked a quiet revolution in quantum physics

Elegant experiments with entangled light have laid bare a profound mystery at the heart of reality. Daniel Garisto explains the importance of the work done by this year’s Nobel laureates in Physics…

One of the more unsettling discoveries in the past half century is that the universe is not locally real. “Real,” meaning that objects have definite properties independent of observation—an apple can be red even when no one is looking; “local” means objects can only be influenced by their surroundings, and that any influence cannot travel faster than light. Investigations at the frontiers of quantum physics have found that these things cannot both be true. Instead, the evidence shows objects are not influenced solely by their surroundings and they may also lack definite properties prior to measurement. As Albert Einstein famously bemoaned to a friend, “Do you really believe the moon is not there when you are not looking at it?”

This is, of course, deeply contrary to our everyday experiences. To paraphrase Douglas Adams, the demise of local realism has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Blame for this achievement has now been laid squarely on the shoulders of three physicists: John Clauser, Alain Aspect and Anton Zeilinger. They equally split the 2022 Nobel Prize in Physics “for experiments with entangled photons, establishing the violation of Bell inequalities and pioneering quantum information science.” (“Bell inequalities” refers to the pioneering work of the Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell, who laid the foundations for this year’s Physics Nobel in the early 1960s.) Colleagues agreed that the trio had it coming, deserving this reckoning for overthrowing reality as we know it. “It is fantastic news. It was long overdue,” says Sandu Popescu, a quantum physicist at the University of Bristol. “Without any doubt, the prize is well-deserved.”

“The experiments beginning with the earliest one of Clauser and continuing along, show that this stuff isn’t just philosophical, it’s real—and like other real things, potentially useful,” says Charles Bennett, an eminent quantum researcher at IBM…

Quantum foundations’ journey from fringe to favor was a long one. From about 1940 until as late as 1990, the topic was often treated as philosophy at best and crackpottery at worst. Many scientific journals refused to publish papers in quantum foundations, and academic positions indulging such investigations were nearly impossible to come by…

Today, quantum information science is among the most vibrant and impactful subfields in all of physics. It links Einstein’s general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics via the still-mysterious behavior of black holes. It dictates the design and function of quantum sensors, which are increasingly being used to study everything from earthquakes to dark matter. And it clarifies the often-confusing nature of quantum entanglement, a phenomenon that is pivotal to modern materials science and that lies at the heart of quantum computing…

Eminently worth reading in full: “The Universe Is Not Locally Real, and the Physics Nobel Prize Winners Proved It,” from @dangaristo in @sciam.

Apposite: entangled particles and wormholes could be manifestations of the same phenomenon, and resolve paradoxes like information escaping a black hole: “Black Holes May Hide a Mind-Bending Secret About Our Universe.” 

Richard Feynman


As we rethink reality, we might spare a thought for Walter Brattain; he died on this date in 1987. A physicist (at Bell Labs at the time), he worked with John Bardeen and William Shockley to invent the point-contact transistor in 1947, the birth of the semiconductor– work for which the trio shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956.

At college, Brattain said, he majored in physics and math because they were the only subjects he was good at. He became a solid physicist with a good understanding of theory, but his strength was in physically constructing experiments. Working with the ideas of Shockley and Bardeen, Brattain’s hands built the first transistor. Shortly, the transistor replaced the bulkier vacuum tube for many uses and was the forerunner of microminiature electronic parts.

As semiconductor technology has advanced, it has begun to incorporate quantum effects.


Most Single-Breath Opera Songs Sung In 10 Minutes (etc.)…

The human spirit stretches to soar.  Now, thanks to THE UNIVERSAL RECORD DATABASE (“The definitive site for human achievement”) there’s an easily-accessible source of benchmarks:

URDB is an open, participatory database for world records. We welcome you to get involved, whether discussing records, beating records or setting new ones of your own. This project is in its infancy, with many features coming in the months ahead. Help us build a community as we collectively push the limits of what mankind can do.

… or just marvel that Michael Kennedy sang 18 single-breath opera songs in 10 minutes, or that Scott Campbell read 52 world cities and their forecasted high temperatures in one minute live on his radio show, or that Erikah Westberry fit 46 pieces of candy corn in to her mouth at once and closed it…  or many, many more– new worlds records al!

As we raise our aspirations, we might note that it was on this date the the “Solid State Age” was born: on June 30, 1948, Bell Labs announced the invention of the “transistor,” and proposed that it might replace the vacuum tubes then ubiquitous in radios and other electronic devices…  The first patent for the field-effect transistor principle was filed in Canada by Austrian-Hungarian physicist Julius Edgar Lilienfeld on 22 October 1925, though Lilienfeld didn’t publish research articles about his devices. Then in 1934, German physicist Dr. Oskar Heil patented another field-effect transistor.  But it wasn’t until 1947, and the work begun then at Bell Labs by a team including John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, Wiliam Shockley, and John Pierce (who named “the transistor”) that it became practical.  (The first working model was completed in December, 1947, but the announcement was held– for further tweaking.)

Replica of the first working transistor

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