Quantum Mechanics: 1925-1927
WHAT GOOD IS IT?

The equations developed by Heisenberg, Schrödinger and their colleagues give a glimpse into the nature of reality, but that's not all. They are also essential tools of modern work in key areas of practical technology--including the electronics you are using to read this text. Thousands of physicists use the equations of quantum mechanics every day to understand and improve computer components, metals, lasers, the properties of chemicals, and on and on. Many important physical effects, from fluorescent lights to the shape of a snowflake, cannot be understood at all without quantum mechanics.

Even the Uncertainty Principle isn't "merely" philosophy: it predicts real properties of electrons. Electrons jump at random from one energy state to another state which they could never reach except that their energy is momentarily uncertain. This "tunneling" makes possible the nuclear reactions that power the sun and many other processes. Physicists have put some of these processes to practical use in microelectronics. For example, delicate superconducting instruments that use electron tunneling to detect tiny magnetic fields are enormously helpful for safely scanning the human brain.

You can EXIT to exhibits on a few of the ways physicists have put quantum mechanics to use: see our Transistorized! exhibit, or check out lasers or superconducting devices.

Next:

Triumph of the Copenhagen Interpretation

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The Uncertainty Principle

More Info:

The Uncertainty Relations

Derivation of Uncertainty Relations

The Gamma-Ray Microscope

Implications of Uncertainty

Heisenberg Speaking on the Origins of Uncertainty

Further Reading

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Exhibit

About this Exhibit

1998 - American Institute of Physics and David Cassidy ()