Quantum physics is the study of the behavior of matter and energy at the molecular, atomic, nuclear, and even smaller microscopic levels. In the early 20th century, it was discovered that the laws that govern macroscopic objects do not function the same in such small realms.
What Does Quantum Mean?:
"Quantum" comes from the Latin meaning "how much." It refers to the discrete units of matter and energy that are predicted by and observed in quantum physics. Even space and time, which appear to be extremely continuous, have smallest possible values.
Who Developed Quantum Mechanics?:
As scientists gained the technology to measure with greater precision, strange phenomena was observed. The birth of quantum physics is attributed to Max Planck's 1900 paper on blackbody radiation. Development of the field was done by Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrodinger, and many others. Ironically, Albert Einstein had serious theoretical issues with quantum mechanics and tried for many years to disprove or modify it.
What's Special About Quantum Physics?:
In the realm of quantum physics, observing something actually influences the physical processes taking place. Light waves act like particles and particles act like waves (called wave particle duality). Matter can go from one spot to another without moving through the intervening space (called quantum tunnelling). Information moves instantly across vast distances. In fact, in quantum mechanics we discover that the entire universe is actually a series of probabilities.
Quantum Optics:
Quantum optics is a branch of quantum physics that focuses primarily on the behavior of light, or photons. At the level of quantum optics, the behavior of individual photons has a bearing on the outcoming light, as opposed to classical optics, which was developed by Sir Isaac Newton. Lasers are one application that has come out of the study of quantum optics.
Quantum Electrodynamics (QED):
Quantum electrodynamics (QED) is the study of how electrons and photons interact. It was developed in the late 1940s by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, Sinitro Tomonage, and others. The predictions of QED regarding the scattering of photons and electrons are accurate to eleven decimal places.
Unified Field Theory:
Unified field theory is a collection of research paths that are trying to reconcile quantum physics with Einstein's theory of general relativity, often by trying to consolidate the fundamental forces of physics. Some types of unified theories include (with some overlap):
Quantum Gravity
String Theory / Superstring Theory / M-Theory
Grand Unified Theory
Loop Quantum Gravity
Theory of Everything
Supersymmetry
Other Names:
Quantum physics is sometimes called quantum mechanics or quantum field theory. It also has various subfields, as discussed above, which are sometimes used interchangeably with quantum physics, though quantum physics is actually the broader term for all of these disciplines.
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Author's Bio: 

Andrew Zimmerman Jones, Physics Guide for About.com, has studied and written about physics since 1991. He holds a Physics degree from Wabash College with honors & awards.