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General-Audience Essays on Quantum Mechanics

  1. Sep 30, 2005 #1
    I have a website called Watered Down Physics, where I -- a non-physicist -- try to explain physics concepts for a general audience. I do a lot of reading in physics and the entries on my webpage represent my distillation of this material. Because I'm not a trained physicist, I make sure to stick closely to original source material.

    Over the last couple of months, I've written a series of essays on quantum mechanics. If, like me, you enjoy physics purely as a hobby, or you teach physics for non-majors, my website might be a good source of information. It can be accessed by clicking on:


    My writings on quantum mechanics appear on the following entry dates:

    July 27: Intro to Quantum Mechanics

    August 2: Double-Slit Experiments

    August 13: Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle

    September 3: Quantum Entanglement

    September 10: Probabilistic Elements, Copenhagen Interpretation, Many Worlds Interpretation

    September 22: Discrete Units, Bohr Atom Model

    The most recent entries appear at the top of the page, so to read these write-ups in sequence, you'd have to scroll way down and then read the essays working upwards. The essays also have a lot of links to neat external sources on the web.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 30, 2005 #2
    I'm not a physicist either. Just a hobbyist. So, don't take anything I say as necessarily correct. Anyway, here's my take on your latest essay.

    I think maybe it's a bit too watered down. The idea that quantization (in quantum physics) is synonymous with discretization, while in some vague sense applicable, can be misleading. Certain quantities can only assume values that are integer multiples of a certain value. It has to do with harmonics, which is not at all counter-intuitive.
    So, the SLAC blurb that you quote is not a good way to present this concept to the general public. There are very understandable reasons why certain phenomena are modelled the way they are, and a lot of this can be summarized and presented to the general public in ways that are a lot less mystifying than how it's usually done.

    The quote from the Physics World article by Rigden might give the impression that physicists think of light as consisting "of individual, discrete, localized and indivisible quantum particles." Sort of like little elementary balls of light or something. I don't think that's true. There really isn't any imagery, any qualitative description (of what a photon might be in nature) attached to quantum theory's rigorous definition of the photon as a single-mode light quantum.

    Nature is full of mysteries. However, the historical development and current form of quantum theory isn't one of them. A lot of it is quite intuitive. After all, it was developed and is practiced by people who are much like you and me. It just takes a lot of time and steady, concentrated effort (at least for us ordinary people) to learn the language(s), and the concepts that are sometimes peculiar to those languages, that are necessary to understand the things that the theory is talking about, and what it's saying about those things.
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