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Časlav Brukner
associate professor of experimental physics at the University of Vienna, senior researcher at the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information, and chair professor of physics at Tsinghua University in Beijing

Already as a young boy, I was more interested in the question ‘why?’ than the question ‘how?’. I was never as excited by taking part a watch and putting it back together as I was by thinking about what makes the watch tick in the first place. The reason for this wasn’t just that there were often a few pieces left after I put the watch back together. It was more a form of deep emotional excitement that I experienced when thinking about basic questions.

There was an event, however, which definitely determined the choice of my future profession. As a present for my thirteenth birthday, my brother gave me Vladimir Paar’s 1980 book Sto se Zbiva u Atomskoj Jezgri?, or What’s Going On in the Atomic Nucleus?. I still remember the wonderful illustrations of protons, neutrons and quarks, as small coloured balls jumping from one flight of stairs to another while changing their energy states. Now, quantum physics has become my everyday job, but I still cannot think of a better way of illustrating this phenomenon than small coloured balls jumping from one flight of stairs to another.

Over the years, I have learned that quantum physics is weird, and eludes every attempt to be understood within classical picture, be it based on coloured balls or anything else. It is this weirdness that keeps my curiosity alive – like that of a child –  and searching for answers to nature’s puzzles.

Časlav Brukner is a contributor to Quo Vadis Quantum Mechanics? (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Time, Quantum and Information (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.