How Quantum Mechanics Lets Us See, Smell and Touch . Science and Technology .

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Offline sr john

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24  October  2018  .

If Max Planck hadn’t ignored some bad advice, he would never have started a revolution. The pivotal moment happened in 1878, when young Planck asked one of his professors whether to continue pursuing a career in physics. Herr Professor Philipp von Jolly told Planck to find another line of work .

All the important discoveries in physics had already been made, the professor assured his young protégé. As Planck later recalled, von Jolly told him, “[Physics] may yet keep going in one corner or another, scrutinising or putting in order a jot here and a tittle there, but the system as a whole is secured, and theoretical physics is noticeably approaching its completion .

Putting one of those jots in order, it turned out, eventually won Planck a Nobel Prize — and led to the birth of quantum mechanics. The troublesome trifle concerned a very ordinary phenomenon: Why do objects glow the way they do when heated? All materials, no matter what they’re made of, behave the same way with increasing temperature: turning red, then yellow, then white. Yet no physicist in the 19th century could explain this seemingly simple process .

The problem came to be called the ultraviolet catastrophe, because the best theorem of the day predicted that objects heated to very high temperatures should spew infinite amounts of short-wavelength energy. Since we know a strong current doesn’t turn light bulbs and toasters into energy-spewing death rays, 19th century physics clearly wasn’t the last word .

Planck found an answer in 1900 with what amounted to a modern-day hack. He proposed (guessed, really) that energy could only be absorbed or emitted in discrete packets, or quanta. It was a radical departure from so-called classical physics, which held that energy flowed in smooth, continuous streams. At the time, Planck had no theoretical justification — but it turned out to work anyway. His quanta effectively capped the amount of energy that heated objects could release at any temperature. No more death rays .

So began the quantum revolution. It would take decades of incandescent theoretical work by Albert Einstein, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr and other titans to transform Planck’s inspiration into a full theory, but it all started because no one understood what happened to things when they get hot . .

Spreading The Truth .
Thanks  Sr John .

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