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Quantum mechanics course iwhatisquantummechanics

Quantum mechanics course iwhatisquantummechanics

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Published by: jlbalb on Sep 14, 2008
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01/24/2011

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Quantum mechanics is the study of mechanical systems whose dimensions are close to orbelow the atomic scale, such as molecules, atoms, electrons, protons and other subatomicparticles. Quantum mechanics is a fundamental branch of physics with wide applications.Quantum theory generalizes classical mechanics and provides accurate descriptions formany previously unexplained phenomena such as black body radiation and stableelectron orbits. The effects of quantum mechanics are typically not observable onmacroscopic scales, but become evident at the atomic and subatomic level. There arehowever exceptions to this rule such as superfluidity.The word “quantum” came from the Latin word which means "unit of quantity". Inquantum mechanics, it refers to a discrete unit that quantum theory assigns to certainphysical quantities, such as the energy of an atom at rest . The discovery that waves havediscrete energy packets (called quanta) that behave in a manner similar to particles led tothe branch of physics that deals with atomic and subatomic systems which we today callquantum mechanics. It is the underlying mathematical framework of many fields of physics and chemistry, including condensed matter physics, solid-state physics, atomicphysics, molecular physics, computational chemistry, quantum chemistry, particlephysics, and nuclear physics. The foundations of quantum mechanics were establishedduring the first half of the twentieth century by Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Louisde Broglie, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Max Born, John vonNeumann, Paul Dirac, Wolfgang Pauli and others. Some fundamental aspects of thetheory are still actively studied.Quantum mechanics is essential to understand the behavior of systems at atomic lengthscales and smaller. For example, if Newtonian mechanics governed the workings of anatom, electrons would rapidly travel towards and collide with the nucleus, making stableatoms impossible. However, in the natural world the electrons normally remain in anunknown orbital path around the nucleus, defying classical electromagnetism.In the formalism of quantum mechanics, the state of a system at a given time is describedby a complex wave function (sometimes referred to as orbitals in the case of atomicelectrons), and more generally, elements of a complex vector space. This abstractmathematical object allows for the calculation of probabilities of outcomes of concreteexperiments. For example, it allows one to compute the probability of finding an electronin a particular region around the nucleus at a particular time. Contrary to classicalmechanics, one can never make simultaneous predictions of conjugate variables, such asposition and momentum, with arbitrary accuracy. For instance, electrons may beconsidered to be located somewhere within a region of space, but with their exactpositions being unknown. Contours of constant probability, often referred to as “clouds”may be drawn around the nucleus of an atom to conceptualize where the electron mightbe located with the most probability. It should be stressed that the electron itself is notspread out over such cloud regions. It is either in a particular region of space, or it isnot[citation needed]. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle quantifies the inability toprecisely locate the particle.

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