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Quantum Physics: Imaginary numbers are not an unnecessary extra construct


Anyone who does not succeed in separating mathematical theory from mundane reality comes out at the very least when it comes to imaginary numbers. These don’t actually exist – but they can now prove to be absolutely necessary.

In fact, imaginary numbers are a purely theoretical construct. Basically, they just serve up the fact that the equations need to be solved – even if it doesn’t make sense at all. They’re basically just doing a professional looking role where the word “nonexistent” is heard in school math lessons – like taking the root of negative numbers.

Now, however, two studies that have arisen independently of each other have been published and give the fictional numbers a very significant right to exist. So this chapter can prove to be absolutely necessary in order to be able to comprehensively describe reality, which in the end has little to do with it.

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For some time, there has been disagreement over whether quantum theorists in particular really need these mathematical beats or are just using them as a convenient shortcut. Even Hendrik Lorentz, one of the predecessors of quantum physics, already pointed out to his colleague Erwin Scheringer that this question should be clarified. He himself introduced the complex numbers – the whole set of real and imaginary numbers – into the theory.

However, two papers now solve the problem. Someone was in the magazine temper naturewho preferred others in Physical Review Letters Posted. It is clear in both that if prior knowledge of quantum mechanics is correct, then imaginary numbers must also have their place in the mathematics of our universe.

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“The early founders of quantum mechanics were unable to find a way to explain the complex numbers in the theory,” said Marc-Olivier Renaud, a theoretical physicist at the Institute of Optical Sciences in Spain. Both publications do this using standard quantum physics experiments.

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