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The Quantum Revolution

By the early 1920s, various phenomena had revealed a gaping hole in the fabric of physics. At the same time, the explanations proffered by physicists such as Einstein and Bohr held out the promise of a radical reconstruction. The task of integrating these insights into a coherent theory of sub-atomic physics fell to Werner Heisenberg and Erwin Schrödinger. Although they were working independently, their approaches were sufficiently similar to be formally merged into quantum mechanics. This new theory constituted a radical shift in the conceptual foundations of physics.

To read about the problems in interpreting black-body radiation and the first proposal in quantum theory see the ultraviolet catastrophe. To read about how Einstein helped early quantum theory develop see the photoelectric effect. To read about the paradoxical behaviour of light and subatomic particles see wave-particle duality.

Choose from the following links to investigate three key aspects of quantum mechanics: the Schrödinger Wave Equation, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and the EPR Paradox.

SeeShaking the Foundations: the implications of quantum theory for a summary of the ways the quantum view of the world departs from classical physics.

To read different interpretations of how quantum theory relates to reality see Schrödinger’s Cat and the meaning of quantum theory.

Email link | Feedback | Contributed by: Dr. Christopher Southgate
Source: God, Humanity and the Cosmos  (T&T Clark, 1999)

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