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Quantum Theory

By | Jan. 2011
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Quantum theory evolved as a new branch of theoretical physics during the first few decades of the 20th century in an endeavour to understand the fundamental properties of matter. It began with the study of the interactions of matter and radiation. Certain radiation effects could neither be explained by classical mechanics, nor by the theory of electromagnetism. Quantum theory is about the nature of matter.In contrast to Einstein's Relativity, which is about the largest things in the universe, quantum theory deals with the tiniest things we know, the particles that atoms are made of, which we call "subatomic" particles. In contrast to Relativity, quantum theory was not the work of one individual, but the collaborative effort of some of the most brilliant physicists of the 20th century, among them Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli, and Max Born. Two names clearly stand out: Max Planck (1858-1947) and Werner Heisenberg (1901-1976). Planck is recognised as the originator of the quantum theory, while Heisenberg formulated one of the most eminent laws of quantum theory, the Uncertainty Principle, Planck's constant: Energy is not continuous.Around 1900, Max Planck from the University of Kiel concerned himself with observations of the radiation of heated materials. He attempted to draw conclusions from the radiation to the radiating atom. On basis of empirical data, he developed a new formula which later showed remarkable agreement with accurate measurements of the spectrum of heat radiation. The result of this formula was so that energy is always emitted or absorbed in discrete units, which he called quanta. Planck developed his quantum theory further and derived a universal constant, which came to be known as Planck's constant. The discovery of quanta revolutionised physics, because it contradicted conventional ideas about the nature of radiation and energy. The British physicist Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) demonstrated experimentally that the atom is not...

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