Caldera chronicle: Getting into hot water

Yellowstone Caldera Chronicles is a weekly column written by scientists and collaborators of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. This week’s contribution is from Dan Dzurisin, emeritus geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

It’s nearly impossible to wrap your head around the way things are in the infinitesimally small realm of quantum mechanics, where objects can pop in and out of existence and be in two places at once. Even the nature of “objects” is ambiguous: Electrons and light both share properties of waves and particles. Huh? Strange, but true. If it weren’t, the sun wouldn’t shine and there would be no lasers or cell phones.

These ideas seem incongruous to us because we don’t consciously experience quantum effects in our daily lives. We don’t “live” in the quantum realm, where distances are measured in terms of the Planck length, which is 0.000000000000000000000000000000000016 meters. No need to express that in feet. Suffice it to say it’s REALLY small.

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