Quantum mechanics is a topic taught in JC physics tuition classes that frequently instills fear in some. However, it is not as intricate as it may seem. As with any topic in science, it requires time to read through and understand the content. It generally concentrates on the study of structures and processes at the atomic and subatomic levels – which is used to understand the more significant mysteries of our physical world, such as antimatter.

History of Quantum Mechanics

Max Planck and his work on black-body radiation made him one of the originators of quantum physics. He also contributed to Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Additionally, Einstein used some of Planck’s work to propose the Photoelectric Effect. Einstein and Planck made some of the largest contributions to theoretical physics in their time – hence they both received Nobel Prizes for their research in physics.

Wave Functions

A wave function describes the quantum conditions of a particle, such as an electron. They are used to determine the probability of a particle at a specific position in time. Some quantum conditions associated with wave functions include the magnetic quantum number, spin and azimuthal quantum number. Each condition represents an important characteristic of a specific particle being observed.

Interference

The wavelike properties of light is a perfect example of interference. Thomas Young, one of the scientists who demonstrated the double-slit experiment, proved the correctness of the wave theory of light. In his experiment, a source of light is made to illuminate two adjacent slits within a screen while the image passes through the two slits to be observed on a second screen. The waves of light that pass through the slits are either constructive or destructive, hence either a greater wave or a smaller wave will result in an interference pattern. If the intensity of light is lowered so that only one photon at a time travels through a slit, an interference pattern can still be observed when striking the screen i.e. each photon is then forced to interfere with itself. This proves that the location of a particle, or subatomic particle, is not defined unless observed.

Indeterminable Nature and Conclusion

Instead of determined realities, particles may behave in unimaginable ways. Observation affects the outcome of a particle’s behaviour. Likewise, the lack of observation results in different behaviours. This is the reason why quantum mechanics is such an interesting branch of physics – there are many mysteries that are still hidden, which could possibly have the same (or greater) effect on our lives as the introduction of the internet had.