December 13, 2018

Quantum Mechanics Is For All of Us

“Perhaps no other area of physics has enjoyed as much attention from scientists and non-scientists as quantum mechanics. The fame of quantum mechanics theories stands in juxtaposition to the physical “weirdness” they manifest – even some of the scientists who discovered these theories were set aback by the startling consequences. It’s no wonder Einstein remarked, “The more success the quantum theory has, the sillier it looks.” But as “silly” as it may seem, the physical implications of quantum mechanics are real, and not nearly as complicated nor inaccessible as they might seem.

We are all familiar with the way the burner of an electric stove goes from being faint red to flaming bright red as the temperature rises. If we could increase the temperature even higher, we would eventually see the burner shifting from its reddish glow to more of a bluish hue. In essence, what we are observing is a very specific relationship between the temperature of a hot object (e.g., stove burner) and the light (thermal radiation) it gives off: as the temperature increases, the light emitted from the burner shifts to a higher frequency. And although our eyes only see a particular color, it’s actually a range of colors, or a frequency spectrum, that’s emitted. This seemingly mundane physical phenomenon left twentieth-century physicists paralyzed for answers, and it would ultimately provide the very first peak into the bizarre world of quantum mechanics.

Click for Sound
In 1900, some six years of work had led Max Planck to the correct mathematical form of the frequency spectrum known as Planck’s Radiation Law. Indeed, it was an amazing accomplishment worthy of a Nobel Prize in and of itself. However, the law provided nothing in the way of actual physical insight. So the questioned remained: What’s it about the interaction of matter and radiation that results in the frequency spectrum? Planck needed to know, and so he pushed forward. What he found would change physics and our understanding of nature forever: matter can only emit or absorb energy in specific “chunks”! In other words, the energy values allowed are discrete rather than a continuous distribution. So, if an atom’s energy goes up or down during its interaction with light, it must do so in specific increments, no more, no less. Let me give you an analogy.

Imagine a big, empty box. Outside the box, there are balls of varying sizes. Now, let the box represent matter, and the balls represent energy. According to classical mechanics, matter can absorb energy in any amount, so we’re free to place balls of any size into the box until it’s completely full. That is, it doesn’t matter what balls I use to fill the box – I just need to fill it up. However, according to quantum mechanics, energy can only be absorbed in specific increments. Therefore, I’m restricted to a specific-sized ball – say a tennis ball – and the box can only be filled with this “energy quantum.””

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"There's nothing democratic about forcing through a Brexit deal that voters in 2016 probably wouldn't have approved."

" Good negotiators use leverage (something they have, which their adversary wants) to obtain what are called “concessions” (something their adversary has, which they want). The result is what experts call “compromise.”"

"Some Israeli researchers and politicians are critical of a decision by the Hebrew University to teach more classes in English, but administrators believe such a switch is necessary to maintain the institutions status."

"A rumor that the TV show 'Friends' was leaving Netflix almost broke the Internet this week. Why do we love this show so much?"

"The U.S. economy is growing at the fastest pace in five years... So why are Wall Street and some economists suddenly worried about a recession?"

"What if Twitter is mostly a closed ecosystem, relevant only to and within itself? What if its ability to shape the real world is, as they say, greatly exaggerated?"

"Progressives are constantly checking their “white privilege,” but what about ideological privilege? Particularly for women, the prevailing assumption is that you aren’t normal unless you’re a liberal Democrat."

"Whether you want to dip into a novel that evokes Midge Maisel’s New York City or pick up a sparkling history of 1950s comedy, we’ve got some recommendations for you."

"Amid America’s reckoning with sexual harassment and violence, gender inequity, and discrimination, sex education is as fraught as it’s ever been."

"Bimbo Bakeries USA, which produces the Arnold, Sara Lee, Stroehmann and Freihofer brands, to remove certification, says exploring ‘alternative solutions’"

"Changes in colony behaviour due to past events are not the simple sum of ant memories, just as changes in what we remember, and what we say or do, are not a simple set of transformations, neuron by neuron."

"The Harry Potter series is a work of fiction. So, maybe we should just put the witchcraft debate aside and read it from a different perspective... there are a lot of lessons we can learn from the series that we also see in the Torah."