(WallStreetJournal) Frank Wilczek is a practicing quantum mechanic today. In this editorial/book review, he discusses insights he gained from the book “Spinning Tops and Gyroscopic Motion” that was written by the Irish engineer and mathematician John Perry. The content is based on a lecture Perry gave in 1890 in which he anticipated a key force in all of nature. Perry devotes much of the book to the gyroscope—basically a top mounted in a frame, so that it can spin freely. The most amazing thing about gyroscopes is the simple but profound fact that they lock into a particular orientation.
Wilczek explains that gyroscopic motion in the heart of matter. Electrons, photons and most other fundamental particles have an intrinsic “spin.” Using lasers, magnetic fields and some newer tricks with quantum entanglement, we’re learning how to grip and reorient the axes of these elemental gyros. A revolution in quantum technology is emerging from our improving ability to manipulate the spins of photons and electrons (and atomic nuclei). Wilczek explains that John Perry looks prescient in light of today’s thinking about spin through equations.