Quantum Mechanics: An Introduction
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This was unexpected because light was understood to act as a wave, meaning that values of color should be a continuous spectrum. This seemed so strange that Planck regarded quantization as nothing more than a mathematical trick. According to Helge Kragh in his article in Physics World magazine, " Max Planck, the Reluctant Revolutionary ," "If a revolution occurred in physics in December , nobody seemed to notice it. Planck was no exception …".
Planck's equation also contained a number that would later become very important to future development of QM; today, it's known as "Planck's Constant. Quantization helped to explain other mysteries of physics. In , Einstein used Planck's hypothesis of quantization to explain why the temperature of a solid changed by different amounts if you put the same amount of heat into the material but changed the starting temperature.
In , Johannes Rydberg derived an equation that described the spectral lines emitted by hydrogen, though nobody could explain why the equation worked. They could "jump" between special orbits, and the energy produced by the jump caused specific colors of light, observed as spectral lines.
Though quantized properties were invented as but a mere mathematical trick, they explained so much that they became the founding principle of QM.
In , Einstein published a paper, " Concerning an Heuristic Point of View Toward the Emission and Transformation of Light ," in which he envisioned light traveling not as a wave, but as some manner of "energy quanta. This would also apply, as would be shown a few years later, when an electron "jumps" between quantized orbits.
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With this new way to envision light, Einstein offered insights into the behavior of nine different phenomena, including the specific colors that Planck described being emitted from a light-bulb filament. It also explained how certain colors of light could eject electrons off metal surfaces, a phenomenon known as the "photoelectric effect.
In a paper, "The Photoelectric Effect: Rehabilitating the Story for the Physics Classroom," Klassen states that Einstein's energy quanta aren't necessary for explaining all of those nine phenomena. Certain mathematical treatments of light as a wave are still capable of describing both the specific colors that Planck described being emitted from a light-bulb filament and the photoelectric effect.
Roughly two decades after Einstein's paper, the term " photon " was popularized for describing energy quanta, thanks to the work of Arthur Compton, who showed that light scattered by an electron beam changed in color.
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This showed that particles of light photons were indeed colliding with particles of matter electrons , thus confirming Einstein's hypothesis. By now, it was clear that light could behave both as a wave and a particle, placing light's "wave-particle duality" into the foundation of QM. Since the discovery of the electron in , evidence that all matter existed in the form of particles was slowly building. Perhaps wave-particle duality could ring true for matter as well?
Dirac brought relativity theory to bear on quantum physics so that it could properly deal with events that occur at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. Classical physics, however, also deals with mass attraction gravity , and no one has yet been able to bring gravity into a unified theory with the relativized quantum theory. Reference Terms. The term "quantum mechanics" was first coined by Max Born in It can be explained by a model that depicts it as a wave.
In classical physics these ideas are mutually contradictory. Despite the success of quantum mechanics, it does have some controversial elements. Related Stories. This new quantum circuit opens the door to possible future To identify a particle's characteristics, physicists introduced the notion of Combining quantum mechanics and In quantum physics, however, these A new article discusses the physics of frequency modulation in superconducting quantum circuits, ultracold atoms, In October , the first quantum memory component was built from a string of caesium atoms.
But particles of matter interact so easily with others that their quantum states are preserved for very short times — just billionths of a second.
Griffiths, Introduction to Quantum Mechanics, 2nd Edition | Pearson
Photons , on the other hand, maintain their states about a million times longer because they are less prone to interact with each other. But they are also hard to store , as they travel, literally, at the speed of light. In , scientists managed to stop light in its tracks , overcoming one practical hurdle.
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And the first quantum logic gate — the brains behind quantum computers — was created with light in While three of the four fundamental forces of nature — those operating on very small scales — are well accounted for by quantum theory, gravity is its Achilles heel.
This force works on a much larger scale and quantum theory has been powerless so far to explain it. A number of bizarre theories have been proposed to bridge this gap, many of which suggest that the very fabric of space-time bubbles up with random quantum fluctuations — a foam of wormholes and infinitesimal black holes. Such a foam is thought to have filled the universe during the big bang , dimpling space-time so that structures such as stars and galaxies could later take shape.
The most popular quantum gravity theory says that particles and forces arise from the vibrations of tiny loops — or strings — just 10 metres long. The controversial theory accounts for gravity, inflation, and dark energy.
Introduction to Quantum Physics
Physicists are now devising observations and experiments that could test the competing theories. Quantum physics is usually thought to act on light and particles smaller than molecules. Certainly, harnessing troops of atoms or photons that follow quantum laws holds great technological promise. Recent work cooling atoms to near absolute zero have produced new forms of matter called Bose-Einstein and fermionic condensates. These have been used to create laser beams made of atoms that etch precise patterns on surfaces, and might one day lead to superconductors that work at room temperature.
All of these hopes suggest that, as queasy as quantum can be, it remains likely to be the most powerful scientific cure-all for years to come. By Maggie McKee In this computer artwork, the funnels represent several different universes being created at the same time.