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Help Dumb question ahead.

  1. Nov 6, 2003 #1
    I'm doing a research paper on and the interataction between economic, social, technological and environmental factors of quantum mechanics. It really is going well so far, however.. I seem to be slightly at a loss when it comes to the environmental part.

    How has quantum mechanics affected our environment? The only thing I have come up so far is the distant correlation from quantum mechanics => nuclear power => nuclear waste => hurting environment. No idea what else there may be.. I'm trying to draw a link here and coming up with a blank.

    If anyone has any suggestions at all, I would appreciate them very much. Thanks for your time everyone.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2003 #2
    Well, it's also rather indirect, but that big nuclear explosion in the sky called "the Sun" has a big impact on the environment ...

    These kinds of questions are pretty vague, though. Quantum mechanics is responsible for all of chemistry, which is in turn responsible for most of biology, etc ...
  4. Nov 6, 2003 #3


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    You are correct. Although much of the Manhattan Project to develop the Atomic Bomb (which also built the first reactors) was at the engineering level and in the physics area of nuclear physics rather than quantum mechanics, the discoveries of QM in the 1920s and 1930s were used to calculate the fission cross sections, a vital paart of the knowledge base. So not only nuclear power, but also nuclear arsenals come from that (atmospheric testing of hydrogen bombs was stopped by international treaty because its fallout products were intesely dangerous to health).

    In the late 1930s, Linus Pauling, who had studiedd IIRC under Bohr, developed the quantum theory of the chemical bond. This was a breakthrough for chemistry, and resulted in an explosion of new chemical products, including I believe (check this out) the flourocarbons that threaten the Ozone layer. Pauling's theory also resulted in the modern theories of DNA and proteins. Many environmental concerns there.

    Finally the original transistor was the result of a deliberate project at Bell Labs to develop the application of quantum mechanics to electronics. Key to its working was the work of Landau and Fermi on conduction electrons. From the transistor comes the integrated circuit, and computers, and the web. Could you develop that? The web is certainly a big part of some people's environment! The web was invented at CERN, the European accelerator facility, by a particle physicist! You can probably look up the details of that if you need it.

    I detect in your post a desire to find some positive news about the environment coming out of quantum mechanics. Any of the above themes can be spun in a positive direction. For example QM -> chemical bond -> molecuular biology -> bacteria manufacturesd to eat oil spills (google on Ventris).
  5. Nov 6, 2003 #4


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    Re: Re: Help.. Dumb question ahead.

    If I'm not mistaken, I believe he's talking about technology arising from research in QM.

    How about computers? Lasers?

    Most of the environmenal impact of technology (pollution) comes from the more mundane things like thermodynamics and chemistry.
  6. Nov 6, 2003 #5
    How about Polarized Glass?..Einstein I beleive made patents to the process around 1920s?, which eventually developed into Sunglasses, or informally shades!..like this

    It is quite interesting also that if it was not for this discovery, then the Scientists at Los Alomos would not have been able to stand up and directly look at the Atomic Explosion as seen on historical films of the Manhatten Project.

    Its almost as an afterthought, maybe directly from Einsteins E=Mc2, that he ironically developed the idea of Polarized Plates the consequences are born out by every dude that walks around shading their eyes..from Nuclear experimentlists to sunworshipers/fashion followers?
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