Skip to content Skip to navigation Skip to collection information

OpenStax-CNX

You are here: Home » Content » College Physics » Introduction to Quantum Physics
Content endorsed by: OpenStax College

Navigation

Table of Contents

Lenses

What is a lens?

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

This content is ...

Endorsed by Endorsed (What does "Endorsed by" mean?)

This content has been endorsed by the organizations listed. Click each link for a list of all content endorsed by the organization.
  • OpenStax College

    This collection is included in aLens by: OpenStax College

    Click the "OpenStax College" link to see all content they endorse.

Affiliated with (What does "Affiliated with" mean?)

This content is either by members of the organizations listed or about topics related to the organizations listed. Click each link to see a list of all content affiliated with the organization.
  • Pierpont C & TC display tagshide tags

    This module is included inLens: Pierpont Community & Technical College's Lens
    By: Pierpont Community & Technical CollegeAs a part of collection: "College Physics -- HLCA 1104"

    Click the "Pierpont C & TC" link to see all content affiliated with them.

    Click the tag icon tag icon to display tags associated with this content.

Recently Viewed

This feature requires Javascript to be enabled.

Tags

(What is a tag?)

These tags come from the endorsement, affiliation, and other lenses that include this content.
 

Module: Introduction to Quantum Physics

Module by: OpenStax College. E-mail the author

29 Introduction to Quantum Physics
A magnified image of a black fly obtained from an electron microscope showing its antennae and tentacles.
Figure 1: A black fly imaged by an electron microscope is as monstrous as any science-fiction creature. (credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture via Wikimedia Commons)

Introduction to Quantum Physics

Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics needed to deal with submicroscopic objects. Because these objects are smaller than we can observe directly with our senses and generally must be observed with the aid of instruments, parts of quantum mechanics seem as foreign and bizarre as parts of relativity. But, like relativity, quantum mechanics has been shown to be valid—truth is often stranger than fiction.

Certain aspects of quantum mechanics are familiar to us. We accept as fact that matter is composed of atoms, the smallest unit of an element, and that these atoms combine to form molecules, the smallest unit of a compound. (See Figure 2.) While we cannot see the individual water molecules in a stream, for example, we are aware that this is because molecules are so small and so numerous in that stream. When introducing atoms, we commonly say that electrons orbit atoms in discrete shells around a tiny nucleus, itself composed of smaller particles called protons and neutrons. We are also aware that electric charge comes in tiny units carried almost entirely by electrons and protons. As with water molecules in a stream, we do not notice individual charges in the current through a lightbulb, because the charges are so small and so numerous in the macroscopic situations we sense directly.

Figure 2: Atoms and their substructure are familiar examples of objects that require quantum mechanics to be fully explained. Certain of their characteristics, such as the discrete electron shells, are classical physics explanations. In quantum mechanics we conceptualize discrete “electron clouds” around the nucleus.
A model of an atom is shown. Atom is shown as a clump of small spherical balls at the center, representing the nucleus, surrounded by spherical and dumbbell-shaped electron clouds. A magnified view of the nucleus is shown as a bunch of small spherical balls.

Making Connections: Realms of Physics:

Classical physics is a good approximation of modern physics under conditions first discussed in the The Nature of Science and Physics. Quantum mechanics is valid in general, and it must be used rather than classical physics to describe small objects, such as atoms.

Atoms, molecules, and fundamental electron and proton charges are all examples of physical entities that are quantized—that is, they appear only in certain discrete values and do not have every conceivable value. Quantized is the opposite of continuous. We cannot have a fraction of an atom, or part of an electron’s charge, or 14-1/3 cents, for example. Rather, everything is built of integral multiples of these substructures. Quantum physics is the branch of physics that deals with small objects and the quantization of various entities, including energy and angular momentum. Just as with classical physics, quantum physics has several subfields, such as mechanics and the study of electromagnetic forces. The correspondence principle states that in the classical limit (large, slow-moving objects), quantum mechanics becomes the same as classical physics. In this chapter, we begin the development of quantum mechanics and its description of the strange submicroscopic world. In later chapters, we will examine many areas, such as atomic and nuclear physics, in which quantum mechanics is crucial.

Glossary

quantized:
the fact that certain physical entities exist only with particular discrete values and not every conceivable value
correspondence principle:
in the classical limit (large, slow-moving objects), quantum mechanics becomes the same as classical physics
quantum mechanics:
the branch of physics that deals with small objects and with the quantization of various entities, especially energy

Collection Navigation

Content actions

Download module as:

Add:

Collection to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks

Module to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks