32_quantum - Lesson 32: Birth of Quantum Mechanics End of...

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Lesson 32: Birth of Quantum Mechanics End of an Era. .. At the end of the 1800s, physicists looked back at a period of 300 years of great growth… Newton had explained the motion of objects here on earth (and in the heavens). Maxwell had put together electricity and magnetism in his work on electromagnetic radiation. Thomson had figured out the mass of atomic particles. ...and more! Altogether, most physicists believed that they had pretty much figured out the whole universe! They were willing to admit that there were still a few questions, but for the most part they were sure they could answer those problems based on what was already known. It was felt that it was only a matter of time (and not much time) before it would all be cleared up… right? Wrong. All of the physics you have studied up till now is called “Classical Physics.” It works great for the kind of physics we've looked at, and you can keep on using it for those kinds of questions. The problem was that classical physics (as we now call it) could not explain a few nagging questions in physics right around the end of the 1800's. One of these problems involved something called blackbody radiation . Blackbody Radiation A blackbody is an object that perfectly absorbs all wavelengths of EMR that strike it. This means that all EMR, from the lowest frequency AC radiation to the highest cosmic rays, will perfectly be absorbed by the object. It's called a blackbody, since objects colored black absorb all visible light that falls on them. True blackbodies work even better than this, but it seemed like a good name. This EMR being absorbed is really energy that the blackbody is absorbing. This energy is also perfectly re-emitted, released by the object, as EMR. According to classical physics, as the frequency of the emitted EMR increases, so should the intensity. As more and more energy from the EMR was absorbed, it would cause the atoms of the blackbody to vibrate faster and faster at higher and higher frequencies. These vibrating atoms (made of charged particles) would release higher and higher
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This note was uploaded on 12/02/2011 for the course PHYSICS 235 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '08 term at Rutgers.

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32_quantum - Lesson 32: Birth of Quantum Mechanics End of...

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