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7.0: Prelude to Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics is a powerful framework for understanding the motions and interactions of particles at small scales, such as atoms and molecules. The ideas behind quantum mechanics often appear quite strange. In many ways, our everyday experience with the macroscopic physical world does not prepare us for the microscopic world of quantum mechanics. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce you to this exciting world.


Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): A D-wave qubit processor: The brain of a quantum computer that encodes information in quantum bits to perform complex calculations. (credit: modification of work by D-Wave Systems, Inc.)

Pictured above is a quantum-computer processor. This device is the “brain” of a quantum computer that operates at near-absolute zero temperatures. Unlike a digital computer, which encodes information in binary digits (definite states of either zero or one), a quantum computer encodes information in quantum bits or qubits (mixed states of zero and one). Quantum computers are discussed in the first section of this chapter.


  • Samuel J. Ling (Truman State University), Jeff Sanny (Loyola Marymount University), and Bill Moebs with many contributing authors. This work is licensed by OpenStax University Physics under a Creative Commons Attribution License (by 4.0).