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The quantum world is mind-bogglingly weird

If you’re interested in the smallest things known to scientists, there’s something you should know. They are extraordinarily ill-behaved. But that’s to be expected. Their home is the quantum world.

These subatomic bits of matter don’t follow the same rules as objects that we can see, feel or hold. These entities are ghostly and strange. Sometimes, they behave like clumps of matter. Think of them as subatomic baseballs. They also can spread out as waves, like ripples on a pond.

Although they might be found anywhere, the certainty of finding one of these particles in any particular place is zero. Scientists can predict where they might be — yet they never know where they are. (That’s different than, say, a baseball. If you leave it under your bed, you know it’s there and that it will stay there until you move it.)

“The bottom line is, the quantum world just doesn’t work in the way the world around us works,” says David Lindley. “We don’t really have the concepts to deal with it,” he says. Trained as a physicist, Lindley now writes books about science (including quantum science) from his home in Virginia.

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