Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

B Why Quantum Mechanics?

  1. Jul 23, 2016 #1
    Why is 'quantum physics' often referred to as 'mechanics'? I'm interested in the specific origin of the term - when it came into vogue, and why 'mechanics' was thought suitable as a term, when it doesn't seem at all obvious that the subject matter involves mechanical principles.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 23, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Have you learned any QM? If so, were you not struck by the parallels between QM and Classical mechanics? The same kinds of problems using similar techniques (Lagrangian and Hamiltonian) as Classical?
     
  4. Jul 23, 2016 #3
    I've read popular science books, like Brian Greene and Paul Davies, but have never studied physics after high school. But the term has entered popular discourse, so I'm just interested in the etymology. 'Quantum Physics' seems fairly self-evident but I associate 'mechanics' with mechanical (perhaps incorrectly!)
     
  5. Jul 23, 2016 #4

    A. Neumaier

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2016 Award

    The term ''mechanics'' is used in physics in a much more general way than in everyday life. For example, classical electrodynamics and fluid flow (''fluid mechanics'') are also treated according to the principles of classical mechanics.

    Mechanics is a particular, systematic and general way to approach arbitrary problems in physics by means of forces acting upon objects, whether the objects are particles, solids, fluids, or fields. Its modern form exists in two closely related approaches - Lagrangian mechanics and Hamiltonian mechanics. For the history see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mechanics.

    Thus quantum physics treated by the quantum version of the same principles is called quantum mechanics.
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2016
  6. Jul 23, 2016 #5
    That's interesting! That is actually just the explanation I was looking for. (I hadn't thought to look up the Wikipedia entry on mechanics.) But I think the incongruity I'm feeling is the application of mechanics to 'fields'.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted