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Planck's constant as a measure of significance

  1. Aug 15, 2012 #1
    The basic concepts used in physics are mostly derived from everyday human experience.
    Hardly surprising for a subject which usefully describes our contingent physical circumstances.

    For example dynamics involves ordinary and familiar concepts like mass, and changing
    distance is described as velocity and acceleration. Time itself may be derived from ordinary
    experience, as argued vigorously in a very recent essay by arXiv:1208.2611 [Broken].

    Here I propose in a lighthearted way that the physics concept of h,
    Planck’s constant, be similarly linked to our ordinary usage of language. I suggest treating it
    as a unit of significance. (See also Anthony Trollope’s 19th Century novel, Framley
    Parsonage, where the significance of its heroine is a critical element of the story.)

    On the scale of ordinary human affairs h is too small to influence our everyday behaviour, but
    especially on small scales, it is used as a measure of action; a dynamic concept that is the
    product of momentum and quantum wavelength. But on larger scales the product of
    momentum and size is still significant — charging elephants and runaway locomotives tend to
    draw one’s attention!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2012 #2


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