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Birth of Quantum Mechanics

PHYS 521

Necessity of QM

There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement. --- Lord Kelvin, 1900 By the end of the nineteenth century a number of serious discrepancies had been found between experimental results and classical theory. Blackbody radiation law Photo-electric effect Atom and atomic spectra

Blackbody radiation

Exp. Measurements: the radiation spectrum was well determined --- a continuous spectrum with a shape that dependent only on temperature

Blackbody radiation

Exp. Measurements: the radiation spectrum was well determined --- a continuous spectrum with a shape that dependent only on temperature Theory: classical kinetic theory (Rayleigh and Jeans) predicts the energy radiated to increase as the square of the frequency. Completely wrong! Ultraviolet catastrophe!

Plancks solution

Plancks assumption (1900): radiation of a given frequency could only be emitted and absorbed in quanta of energy E=h h=6.6261E-34 Js : Plancks constant With this assumption, Planck came up with a formula that fits well with the data. Planck called his theory an act of desperation. Planck neither envisaged a quantization of the radiation field, nor did he quantize the energy of an individual material oscillator. What Planck assumed is that the total energy of a large number oscillators is made up of finite energy elements h.

Einsteins interpretation of Plancks formula

Einstein in 1906 interpreted Plancks result as follows:

Hence, we must view the following proposition as the basis underlying Plancks theory of radiation: The energy of an elementary resonator can only assume values that are integral multiples of h; by emission and absorption, the energy
of a resonator changes by jumps of integral multiples of h

Photo-electric effect

Experimental facts

Shining light on metal can liberate electrons from metal surface Whether the metal emit electrons depends on the freq. of the light: only light with a freq. greater than a given threshold will produce electrons Increasing the intensity of light increases the number of electrons, but not the energy of each electron Energy of electron increases with the increase of light frequency.

Einstein on photo-electric effects


Light consists of a collection of light quanta of energy h The absorption of a single light quantum by an electron increases the electron energy by h Some of this energy must be expended to separate the electron from the metal (the work function, W), which explains the threshold behavior, and the rest goes to the kinetic energy of the electron. Electron kinetic energy = h W Einstein won Nobel Prize in 1921

"for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect"

Reactions to Einsteins light quanta idea


For a long, long time, nobody else believed that. Planck and others in their recommendation of Einsteins membership in Prussian Academy (1913):

One can say that there is hardly one among the great problems in which modern physics is so rich to which Einstein has not made a remarkable contribution. That he may sometimes have missed the target in his speculations, as, for example, in his hypothesis of light quanta, cannot really be held too much against him, for it is not possible to introduce really new ideas even in the most exact sciences without sometimes taking a risk

Experimental confirmation

Experimental confirmation came in 1915 by Millikan

Millikan didnt like Einsteins light quanta idea, which he saw as an attack on the wave theory of light. Tried very hard (for 10 years) to disprove Einsteins theoretical prediction. For all his efforts, he confirmed Einsteins theory and provided a very accurate measurement of Plancks constant. Millikan got Nobel prize in 1923. Still didnt like Einsteins light quanta idea, in a 1916 paper:

This hypothesis may well be called reckless Despite the apparently complete success of the Einstein equation, the physical theory of which it was designed to be the symbolic expression is found so untenable

Compton scattering

Compton experiment 1923: Inelastic collision between photon and electron changes the wavelength of the photon. Even Millikan was impressed: It may be said that it is not merely the Einstein equation which is having extraordinary success at the moment, but the Einstein conception as well. But not without reservation: But until it can account for the facts of Interference and the other effects, we must withhold our full assent. (Nobel lecture, 1923)

Einstein on light quanta

All these fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me no nearer to the answer to the question `What are light quanta? Nowadays every rascal thinks he knows, but he is mistaken. --- letter to Michel Besso, 1951

Problems with atom stability

Rutherfords experiment (1911): atom is composed of electrons moving around a heavy nucleus. Problem: if the electrons orbit the nucleus, classical physics predicts they should emit electromagnetic waves and loose energy. If this happens, the electron will spiral into the nucleus, no stable atom should exist!

Problems with atomic spectrum

Atomic radiation spectrum consists of discrete lines.

Bohrs solution (1912)

An atomic system can only exist in a discrete set of stationary states, with discrete values of energy. Change of the energy, including emission and absorption of light, must take place by a complete transition between two such stationary states.

Bohrs solution (1912)


An atomic system can only exist in a discrete set of stationary states, with discrete values of energy. Change of the energy, including emission and absorption of light, must take place by a complete transition between two such stationary states. The radiation absorbed or emitted during a transition between two states of energies E1 and E2 has a frequency: h=E1 - E2 Bohrs formula explains some of the spectral lines in hydrogen atom (but not all), does not do well with other atoms. A truly revolutionary idea, even Einstein was impressed:

appeared to me like a miracle. This is highest form of musicality in the sphere of thought. (1951)

summary

Energy quantization is necessary to explain the blackbody radiation, the photo-electric effects, the stability of atoms and their spectra Classical physics must be given up: physical properties that are quantized and not continuous are completely different from the ideas of continuous space and time in classical physics.

Later developments

De Broglie: matter wave =h/p Exp. with electron diffraction (Davisson and Germer, 1927)

Today: interferometers with neutrons, atoms and molecules

Borns statistical interpretation of matter wave Matrix mechanics (Heisenberg, Born and Jordan) Wave mechanics, Schroedingers equation (Schroedinger) Relativistic QM (Dirac) Exclusion principle (Pauli)

Birth of QM

The necessity for quantum mechanics was thrust upon us by a series of observations. The theory of QM developed over a period of 30 years, culminating in 1925-27 with a set of postulates. QM cannot be deduced from pure mathematical or logical reasoning. QM is not intuitive, because we dont live in the world of electrons and atoms. QM is based on observation. Like all science, it is subject to change if inconsistencies with further observation are revealed.

Fundamental postulates of QM

How is the physical state described? How are physical observables represented? What are the results of measurement? How does the physical state evolve in time?

These postulates are fundamental, i.e., their explanation is beyond the scope of the theory. The theory is rather concerned with the consequences of these postulates.

Goal of PHYS521 and 522


We will study non-relativistic QM. Our goal is to understand the meaning of the postulates the theory is based on, and how to operationally use the theory to calculate properties of systems. The first semester will lay out the ground work and mathematical structure, while the second will deal more with computation of real problems.