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Introduction to quantum mechanics

Quantum mechanics is a physical science dealing with the behaviour of matter and energy on the scale of atoms and subatomic particles / waves.

It also forms the basis for the contemporary understanding of how very large objects such as stars and galaxies, and cosmological events such as the Big Bang, can be analyzed and explained.

Quantum mechanics is the foundation of several related disciplines including nanotechnology, condensed matter physics, quantum chemistry, structural biology, particle physics, and electronics.

The term "quantum mechanics" was first coined by Max Born in 1924.

The acceptance by the general physics community of quantum mechanics is due to its accurate prediction of the physical behaviour of systems, including systems where Newtonian mechanics fails.

Even general relativity is limited -- in ways quantum mechanics is not -- for describing systems at the atomic scale or smaller, at very low or very high energies, or at the lowest temperatures.

Through a century of experimentation and applied science, quantum mechanical theory has proven to be very successful and practical.

The foundations of quantum mechanics date from the early 1800s, but the real beginnings of QM date from the work of Max Planck in 1900.

Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr soon made important contributions to what is now called the "old quantum theory."

However, it was not until 1924 that a more complete picture emerged with Louis de Broglie's matter-wave hypothesis and the true importance of quantum mechanics became clear.

Some of the most prominent scientists to subsequently contribute in the mid-1920s to what is now called the "new quantum mechanics" or "new physics" were Max Born, Paul Dirac, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli, and Erwin Schrödinger.

Later, the field was further expanded with work by Julian Schwinger, Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Richard Feynman for the development of Quantum Electrodynamics in 1947 and by Murray Gell-Mann in particular for the development of Quantum Chromodynamics.

The interference that produces colored bands on bubbles cannot be explained by a model that depicts light as a particle.

It can be explained by a model that depicts it as a wave.

The drawing shows sine waves that resemble waves on the surface of water being reflected from two surfaces of a film of varying width, but that depiction of the wave nature of light is only a crude analogy.

Early researchers differed in their explanations of the fundamental nature of what we now call electromagnetic radiation.

Some maintained that light and other frequencies of electromagnetic radiation are composed of particles, while others asserted that electromagnetic radiation is a wave phenomenon.

In classical physics these ideas are mutually contradictory.

Ever since the early days of QM scientists have acknowledged that neither idea by itself can explain electromagnetic radiation.

Despite the success of quantum mechanics, it does have some controversial elements.

For example, the behaviour of microscopic objects described in quantum mechanics is very different from our everyday experience, which may provoke some degree of incredulity.

Most of classical physics is now recognized to be composed of special cases of quantum physics theory and/or relativity theory.

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.

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Introduction to quantum mechanics", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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May 30, 2015

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