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Opinion

Physics is pi in the sky

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When readers of Physics World recently voted for their favourite equations, it was no surprise when Clerk Maxwell's electromagnetism theory, which established the link between magnetism and electricity, topped the poll. Maxwell's 1873 classic beat strong competition from the likes of Einstein's e=mc2, and Pythagoras's a2 + b2 = c2. But the poll also sounded a word of warning for investors. Schrödinger's equation (HY = EY), which finished fifth in the poll, was devised by Erwin Schrödinger in the 1920s to explain how sub-atomic particles like electrons behave. As such, Cambridge, UK-based company quantumBEAM decided to design its radical optical communications technology around Schrödinger's work.

The idea was to deliver low cost, ultra-high bandwidth access to small businesses and homes. Sadly, by the spring 2003, when it approached its investors for second round financing, quantumBEAM found that Schrödinger's seminal work hadn't factored in a depressed telecoms market. They declined to stump up more cash, and quantumBEAM closed in May.

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