“Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it” ~ Niels Bohr
I have to agree with Bohr there, not that I am implying that I completely understand quantum theory.
What I do know, is that quantum physics is really quite absurd. Especially when you compare it with what we know and see on a daily basis…so what is it? Quantum Physics is the set of scientific rules that govern the behaviour of matter and energy of particles that are very very small.
The particles in question here are generally the size of atoms or smaller. The theory is complex and would require more words than I will use here to explain. This is simply intended to be an introduction. If this article intrigues you enough to look further, rather than run screaming, I would be delighted.
We could say that quantum physics explains laws for the atomic world, in the way that relatively does for everyday objects. Despite this, the best way to begin to grasp the concept of quantum theory, is to forget everything you know about classical physics and relativity. Don’t try to relate the behaviour of tiny atoms to the behaviour of matter and energy that you see around you. The rules governing the movements of everyday-life-sized matter relating to their size and speed simply don’t work when you go deeper.
Classical physics makes sense to us, it is what most of us learned at school. We know how long to would take for an apple weighing x grams to reach the floor if it falls from the branch of a tree that is x cms high. We know how quickly ‘car a’ would reach ‘car b’ if they are travelling at ‘speed c’ in opposing directions. When it comes to quantum mechanics you can’t be sure that the apple exists on one particular branch and not another, when maybe it could even be an orange.
In the early part of the 20th Century, as technology improved and allowed for more accurate measurement, many great scientific minds began to dabble in the quantum world of atoms and sub-atomic particles (quantum meaning ‘discrete amount’ or ‘portion’). It became clear that classical physics was subject to a number of limitations. What the early quantum physicists found is still the cause of enormous debate, and many headaches!
Quantum physics, also known as quantum mechanics or quantum theory is really the culmination of concepts and hypotheses from many scientists over the course of a few decades. That said, the first quantum theory to be presented was that of ‘black-body radiation’ by Max Planck in 1900.
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