Imaginary numbers are real


Dec 10, 2008
Imaginary numbers are real
These odd values were long dismissed as bookkeeping.
Now physicists are proving that they describe the hidden shape of nature.
14 July 2022
/ Karmela Padavic-Callaghanis, Edited by Pam Weintraub /
"Laboratory experiments involving quantum computers and quantised light now strongly
indicate that imaginary and complex numbers are an indispensable part of the quantum,
and therefore our own, world."
"Almost a hundred years after Schrödinger bemoaned imaginary numbers,
physicists are finding they may be useful in very practical ways.
Quantum physics has revealed that we’ve misunderstood imaginary numbers all along"
"Quantum theory has historically challenged many seemingly ‘common sense’
assumptions about nature. It has, for example, changed the way physicists think
about an experimenter’s ability to measure something with certainty,
or the claim that objects can be affected only by other objects in their immediate surroundings.
When quantum theory was first formulated, it scandalised many luminaries of science at the time,
including Einstein who contributed to its foundations himself. Working with quantum ideas
and poking quantum systems has always, by default, come with the possibility of uncovering
something unexpected at best, and bizarre at worst. Now quantum physics has revealed
that we’ve misunderstood imaginary numbers all along.
They may have, for a time, seemed to be just a mental device inhabiting
the minds of physicists and mathematicians, but since the real world that
we inhabit is indeed quantum, it’s no surprise that imaginary numbers
can be found, quite clearly, within it."