You might have heard the word quantum before in superhero movies or sci-fi adventures, but it’s actually a pretty simple concept! “Quantum” just means that some quantity (for example, energy) can only have discrete (quantized) values. This might mean that the value of the quantity could be 1 or 2 or 3, but it’s not allowed to be 1.5. You can think of quantized energy as individual packets of energy that can’t be broken down any further.
When we study very small things or very cold things, their quantum nature becomes important. The rules of the quantum realm are quite different than the physical rules of our day-to-day lives, and quantum rules can seem really weird! Try playing Quantum Navigator (a game from Geering Up at the University of British Columbia) as Joey the Otter, who follows the rules of quantum mechanics.
(This game is still being developed, so it might have some bugs! Always have a grown up help you when downloading files from the Internet.)
The weird rules of quantum mechanics are put to use in quantum computers, which can solve problems that normal computers have trouble with. When she was a graduate student, Urmila Mahadev found a way to prove that quantum computers are doing their job correctly!