Having completed my A Levels in July 2019, I have decided to take a gap year before reading Physics at university in 2020.

I enjoy racket sports, reading scientific literature, programming in C++, watching videos about cooking usually by Gordon Ramsey and playing strategy games like Chess, Catan, Sid meier's Civilisation and Poker. In summer 2018, I volunteered with Porridge and Rice for 4 weeks working in the Nairobi slums in the charity's partner schools.

Jai Bhalla

Porridge and Rice combats poverty in the Nairobi slums, home to some of the poorest people in the world, by enabling pupils at partner schools to obtain a sound education.

Jai is on a gap year to allow him to travel, learn new skills, and explore new experiences. With a wide range of interests from physics to poker, Jai will share his thoughts on whatever takes his fancy.

What is Quantum Mechanics?

Quantum theory is the theoretical basis of modern physics that explains the nature and behaviour of matter and energy on the atomic and subatomic level.
In essence, it is the scientific laws that govern the very small.

Heisenberg's uncertainty principle:

Arguably the most fundamental notion in all of quantum mechanics; the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. Essentially, it tells us it is impossible to
know both the position and momentum of an object perfectly at the same time. To better illustrate this idea I will use a semiclassical argument.
Say we wanted to measure the position of an electron we would use a photon, that would bounce off the electron which in turn changes the electron's momentum.
The momentum of the electron after is uncertain because the microscope measures photons over a range of angles so it is difficult to discern which way it went.
You can decrease the momentum of the photon by decreasing the wavelength nevertheless, there is a trade off, you lower the resolution of the microscope
meaning you lose information on the position of the electron. In exchange for a well-defined position a photon of a shorter wavelength is used with a
higher momentum hence changing the momentum of an electron by a greater degree. Therefore, you cannot determine one of those quantities accurately
without losing information on the other and vice versa. The uncertainty principle is more profound than this because the electron does not have a precise
position or velocity before and after, in fact those quantities do not even exist.

Wave function:

A mathematical function whose square gives the probability of finding an object in any of its allowed states. All objects in quantum mechanics are
described via wave functions.

Superposition:

In quantum mechanics an object can exist in two or more states at one time until a measurement is made. This superposition goes on to explain why
interference patterns occur. Once a measurement is made the wave function collapses into one of the particular states which we observe.

Many-worlds interpretation:

The wave-function is split into all the different measurements that can exist each measurement having its own branch (which are split into different universes).
When a measurement is made we only perceive one of those branches. It is theorised that these universes can interfere with one another giving rise to
phenomena such as the interference pattern in Young's double slit experiment.

Quantum Computing:

Quantum computers put simply, are machines that exploit various quantum effects such as the principle of superposition/many-worlds interpretation and
the spins of particles in order to grant the user significantly greater computational power than a regular computer. For example, if you have a question
that you could phrase into two different versions, a conventional computer would tackle the first question and then produce an answer after this it would
tackle the second question. A quantum computer would do both simultaneously. How? First we must look at a binary system in an ordinary computer composed of
transistors (tiny switches) that could be a "1" or a "0" these are known as "bits" transistors can only exist in one of these states at one time.
In this regard quantum computers differ via utilising "qubits" (quantum bits). These employ the same binary system however they can exist in two or
more states at once, this capability is where a quantum computer's computational power stems from.

How much more powerful are quantum computers? To put this into perspective if we were to try to decipher a message encrypted via RSA encryption
(the latest form of encryption based off of prime numbers) it would take 260 million personal computers (all personal computers in the world) 12 million
times the age of the universe to crack the contents of the message. Whereas a quantum computer would crack the message in a matter of seconds if not less
than. Another example is if we had 250 qubits we would able to carry out 10^{75} calculations in the matter of a second, again for perspective this
is greater than the number of atoms in the universe. I think these examples best convey the difference in magnitude between the power of quantum computing
and modern day computing.

Why are quantum computers not here yet?

For two reasons the state of superposition is fragile and can be easily disturbed by any measurement including stray atoms interacting with qubits.
The other limitation was that nobody knew how to program a quantum computer. Now we can program quantum computers but the underlying issue has always
been creating a state of superposition for the qubits to work. A functioning quantum computer would be very expensive and it would require extreme
conditions one of which is great temperature gradients close to absolute zero. Factoring this in I believe quantum computing will not be available
for consumers anytime soon because of how dear they would be to run, however this isn't stopping governments across the world in pursuit of a way to break
RSA encryption.

Proof of virtual particles:

Casimir effect - The Casimir effect is a small attractive force that acts between two close parallel uncharged conducting plates. It is due to quantum
vacuum fluctuations of the electromagnetic field.The effect was predicted by the Dutch physicist Hendrick Casimir in 1948. According to the quantum theory,
the vacuum contains virtual particles which are in a continuous state of fluctuation. Casimir realised that between two plates, only those virtual photons
whose wavelengths fit a whole number of times into the gap should be counted when calculating the vacuum energy. The energy density decreases as the
plates are moved closer, which implies that there is a small force drawing them together.

Black Holes:

Quantum mechanics not only affects the very small it also applies to much larger structures in this case black holes. Empty space is not actually empty
it is filled with pairs of "virtual particles" that constantly annihilate each other (matter and antimatter pairs). The theory is that at the boundary of
a black hole (event horizon) a pair of virtual particles is created the pair that is of antimatter origin falls into the black hole moreover the "survivor"
zips off to become a real particle, the real particle is observed as thermal radiation being emitted from the black hole. Once the antimatter particle
"falls" it annihilates a matter particle inside the black hole thus reducing the mass of a black hole by an infinitesimal amount. This discovery was
groundbreaking, we had found that eventually black holes would evaporate into nothing - over the course of trillions of years of course! These phenomena
are appropriately named "Hawking Radiation" after the late professor Stephen Hawking. In addition to that Hawking's theory is one that unifies quantum
mechanics and general relativity which is the main goal among physicists, to find a theory that describes everything. Hawking's contribution is one that
has made a great impact in working towards a grand unified theory.

References:

Books:

- Simon Singh, (1999), The Code Book, Fourth Estate
- Chad Orzel, (2010), How To Teach Quantum Physics To Your Dog, Oneworld Publications
- Stephen Hawking, (2016), A Brief History of Time, Bantam Dell Pub Group

Websites:

- Margaret Rouse, (2015), Quantum Theory. [online] Last accessed 28 April 2019: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/quantum-theory
- The Physics of the Universe, (2019), Black Hole Theory and Hawking Radiation. [online] Last accessed 28 April 2019: http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_blackholes_theory.html
- Philip Gibbs, (1997), The Casimir effect. [online] Last accessed 28 April 2019: http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/casimir.html

My first encounter with Jackson Pollock's work was in the film "The Accountant", during the scene where Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) explains his real profession to Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). As the dialogue progressed, Dana wanders around the trailer discovering a painting painted by the late Jackson Pollock which was worth millions, her shock at his possession of the painting is what drew me to Pollock's name. Soon after, I looked at more of his paintings and found myself entranced by his work, and I began to understand some of the obsession behind his name. I am by no means an art critic/fanatic, but I was instantly blown away at the complexity of work in front of me. The best way I could describe his work would be: a controlled explosion of paint set off by a toddler.

Recently I found myself with the opportunity to view his paintings on my trip to New York, where I visited museums like the Met and the Guggenheim. I stepped into the modern art exhibit, and I was completely overwhelmed. His work covered my whole field of view, I felt like my vision was being incessantly attacked from all angles. I stood there for a while absorbing as much of the image as I could but each moment I focussed on a different aspect I found myself lost in the sheer scale of it all. I moved in closer to the bottom left corner naively thinking I'd be able to comprehend even a small fragment. Subsequently, I found small subtleties in: texture, colour and shape changing my perception of the painting. I can say that I've garnered a huge appreciation for his abstract style moreover, I have a better understanding of the impact his work has made on the artistic world inspiring others with his "drip" style of painting.

Recently I've found myself interested in card games, one in particular being poker. My incipient feelings of curiosity was sparked by watching various youtube videos of professional poker player Daniel Negreanu. I took a liking to his style of play; using his "image" to his advantage plus he offers an interesting and fun personality to the game. Soon my youtube feed was filled with gambling related card games along with other poker professionals/tournaments.

Thereafter I began to widen my search for content drawing inspiration from films such as "Molly's Game" and "21". I realised that it does not take a certain type of person to play poker or card games in general. You do not need to be a maths wiz or a coy player (although it certainly helps!) instead it's the passion for the game that most players possess.

After some time doing this I wanted to play a game for myself, so a few friends and I met to setup a game, we started with "£300k" each. After the first few games I established that the game was not as easy as I thought losing over half of my chips in a few short hands. Of course we were all new to the game because we did not play with real money hence there was no fear of playing recklessly. However, by the end of the night I was "£130k" up after winning a "straight" and a few hands with top "pair". I made many mistakes throughout the game, but that was expected, so I will continue to learn and play.