What is Physics (Quantum Physics)?

What is Physics (Quantum Physics)?

Scientific breakthroughs over the last 70 years have revolutionized our understanding of the universe, and the role we play in it. In our everyday lives, we are able to interact with matter based on a system of laws that we have developed over time, with respect to nature. Classical or Newtonian physics was the language that we used to explain the physical phenomena around us. We could explain concepts like gravity and electromagnetism and consequently use them in various applications that improved our quality of life.

However, scientific research during the 17th and 18th centuries by reputed scientists like Hooke and Euler found that the laws of classical physics did not fully describe the relationship that light had with our physical universe. This, coupled with other observations made by scientists like Michael Faraday with regard to black-body radiation, led to the ‘quantum’ hypothesis developed by Max Planck. Planck theorized that electrons exist at discrete, not continuous, energy states. The results of his experiment matched and confirmed the observations of Euler and Hooke. Planck developed an explanation of thermodynamics in relation to his findings, which has now come to be known as Planck’s Law.

Research into quantum mechanics began during the early 20th century as scientists like C.V Raman, Pieter Zeeman, and Niels Bohr began to further explore uncharted territory. Bohr developed a theory of atomic structure based on quantum mechanics which was validated by the findings of Henry Moseley. Over the next two decades, Bohr’s theory, along with the research of numerous other scientists including that of Albert Einstein, became the bedrock of what we know today as quantum physics.

What Does It Mean?

Quantum physics is a branch of physics that deals with matter and phenomena on microscopic levels. It is founded on the understanding that atoms, the building blocks of nature, function and interact with the universe differently from what we typically perceive. Quantum mechanics is used to explain the strange observations that led to the theory of the wave-particle dual nature of light that is now used extensively in the realm of astrophysics. The word ‘quantum’ is used to describe the behavior of physical particles as discrete, rather than continuous, moving from one energy state to the next, as opposed to along a continuous spectrum.

The implications of quantum mechanics are astounding. Its confirmation as a physical theory to explain the way that matter behaves at the most minute of scales, led to it being used in a variety of different applications like optics, communication, and electronics As a result, previous limits of scale prescribed by classical mechanics became obsolete. Forces that we interact with in our everyday lives like gravity, were found to be less significant when dealing with microscopic scales.

Over the last few decades, scientists like Stephen Hawking have toiled furiously to use quantum mechanics in the creation of a grander theory that explained the way that matter interacted at any scale. Whether we arrive at such a theory in the near future or not, it is clear that the route we need to take lies in the language of quantum mechanics.

Philosophical Ramifications

A new theory to describe the universe obviously had a number of social and philosophical consequences as more and more people began to shed previous ways of thinking about the universe. It had become clear that there was much that we did not know, or were not able to perceive, but were nevertheless interacting with us. Quantum mechanics has led to a number of philosophical schools of thought that treat thought in the same way they treat matter. These theories are founded on an understanding that although they cannot be physically manifested or recorded, our thoughts are capable of shaping the realities we choose to live in.

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