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Randomness and probability are central to modern physics. In statistical mechanics this is because we don’t know everything about the distribution of atoms and molecules in a fluid, so we consider a probability distribution over what they might be; in quantum mechanics it’s because the theory only lets us predict measurement outcomes probabilistically. Physicist Nicole Yunger Halpern explains how we’ve been lagging behind at bringing these two theories together, and how recent progress is changing the landscape of how we think about the microworld.
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Nicole Yunger Halpern received her Ph.D. in physics from Caltech. She is currently a NIST physicist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Physics and IPST at the University of Maryland. Her Ph.D. thesis won the international Ilya Prigogine Prize for a thermodynamics dissertation. As a postdoc she received the International Quantum Technology Emerging Researcher Award. Her new book is Quantum Steampunk: The Physics of Yesterday’s Tomorrow.