By Soumya Ravichandran
On January 31st, UCI held its 50th Annual Homecoming Event. As a part of the Homecoming Celebration, UCI conducted a showcase program, “Adventures in Physics: Quantum Circuits” to entertain alumni and children of all ages. In the afternoon, hundreds of elementary to high school children gathered in the Physical Science Hall to listen to exciting lectures on Electricity and Magnetism. The afternoon began with a short demo presentation by Dr. Bill Heidbrink and his students, David and Elliot. They began with a short introduction on the basics on circuits by conducting a series of experiments using light bulbs. They compared series and parallel circuits and illustrated how resistors play a vital role in the conduction of electricity. The students demonstrated how electricity creates charged particles by bringing a Van de Graff machine, which made one’s hair stand up to due to static electricity. The presentation concluded an experiment with electromagnets. Dr. Heidbrink attached a magnet to the existing electromagnet. Naturally, this attracted the both of them together. However, when he attached an aluminum ring magnet, it repelled and flew a couple of feet it the air. Lastly, he awed the crowd by dipping an aluminum magnet in liquid nitrogen and this time it flew high, around 4 feet in the air. Later, he explained that liquid nitrogen lowers the resistance, thus making it repel stronger. During the break, they had numerous hands-on experiments for the audience. They had a static bicycle, which people could pedal to generate electricity on their own. Also, they had hand-held generators, which conducted electricity and caused mild shocks when it was rapidly turned. After the demonstration and the hands-on experiments, the crowd gave their attention to the renowned Dr. Phil Collins as he explained Quantum Circuits in our daily lives. Dr. Phil Collins began his presentation by introducing the audience to his career: building precise circuits at the molecular atomic level. He told us that it is imperative that scientists working in a laboratory making silicon chips are hygienic at all costs. Since they are constantly in contact with people, millions of skin cells are flaking, breaking, and they pose a risk to the product being made. To prevent this, he wears a protective suit, eyewear, and a helmet. He compared today’s world to the improvement of technology in iPhones. Over the years, their transistors keep getting, smaller, faster, and cheaper. This was Moore’s law back about 50 years ago. Back then, people scoffed at the idea where technology shrinks as it improves, but today it is invariably the truth. He defined quantum in simple terms for the audience; the smallest amount of energy. To put this in perspective, he gave an analogy of a world where one’s car can only travel in integer values of 10. Obviously, this would change life drastically; it could cause accidents, traffic, etc. He emphasized, “We live in a quantized world. Now there are jumps. It’s not necessarily better, or worse, just different.” Dr. Collins talked about Max Planck, father of the quantum constant. Max Planck used to predict the quantum scales for light, energy, and matter. After further research, he concluded that the approximate value of the constant is 1 x 10-34 joules per second. Dr. Collins also mentioned that ten years ago scientists at Berkeley showed they could make tiny nano-scale particles of cobalt. When they are in contact with electricity, these objects, called Quantum Dots glow. From the experiment, scientists concluded that by just changing the size of an object, it produces a different color you can see across the visible spectrum. From his informative and engaging lecture, I learned that today’s circuits are entirely quantum, and without them most of today’s electronic gadgets would not function. In sum, both of these incredible professors gave an insightful outlook on how science and technology play an important role in our everyday life. From a simple light bulb to the new iPhone 6, they incorporate fundamental ideas of physics such as electricity and magnetism to create a device of the future.