For years Iâ€™ve been thinking and hoping that quantum physics would become the next hacker revolution. DIYers in their basements, garages, and hackerspaces have already pioneered radio communications, PCs, household robots, and cheap 3-D printersâ€”why not quantum entanglement, cryptography, computers, and teleportation? In recent years, physics educators haveÂ streamlined quantum experiments to the point where advanced amateurs could do them at home. Iâ€™ve tried to encourage the trend by inviting aÂ Sci Am article on how to make aÂ quantum eraser with a laser pointer and, last week, blogging about aÂ particle detector in a plastic party tumbler.
In the latest issue ofÂ Make magazine, IÂ learned about an extraordinary book that could do for quantum homebrewers whatÂ Popular Electronics magazine did for Jobs and Wozniak in the â€™70s. Written by the father-daughter team of David and Shanni Prutchi,Â Exploring Quantum Physics Through Hands-On Projects takes you from basic particle-wave demonstrations all the way up to quantum random-number generators. The associatedÂ website follows up with detailed advice and other projects. Had you asked me a month ago, I would have said that anÂ atomic clock is surely beyond the capacity of even the most dedicated hobbyist. Now I know better.
I happened to be down in Philadelphia, near where the Prutchis live, for a conference two weeks ago, and David (shown above with his other two daughters, Abigail and Hannahâ€”Shanni was still at school) kindly gave me a tour of their basement lab. The first clue that it wasnâ€™t just any suburban house was the radio telescope in the backyard, which Shanni used toÂ map the Milky Wayâ€™s hydrogen gas in fifth-grade. The living room tchotchkes included an old Civil Defense radiation meter and blown-glass Crookes tubes. The lab itself, about the size of a one-car garage, is a work of art in its own right, lined with snazzy electronics, such as spectrum analyzers, as well as contraptions out of a Victorian experimental philosophy lab, such as van de Graaf generators. Itâ€™s better outfitted than some academic labs Iâ€™ve seen, but David modestly insisted they cobbled it together from Home Depot, eBay, and dumpster dives at local high-tech firms. The book offers tips for how to do the same.
Read the rest here.