Saturday, August 28, 2010

What is Quantum Mechanics ?

Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic scales.

The mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics are abstract. Similarly, the implications are often non-intuitive in terms of classic physics. The centerpiece of the mathematical system is the wavefunction. The wavefunction is a mathematical function providing information about the probability amplitude of position and momentum of a particle.

Historically, the earliest versions of QM were formulated in the first decade of the 20th century at around the same time as the atomic theory and the corpuscular theory of light as updated by Einstein first came to be widely accepted as scientific fact; these latter theories can be viewed as "quantum theories" of matter and electromagnetic radiation. QM underwent a significant re-formulation in the mid-1920s away from old quantum theory with the acceptance of the Copenhagen interpretation of Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Wolfgang Pauli and their associates. By 1930, QM had been further unified and formalized by the work of Paul Dirac and John von Neumann, with a greater emphasis placed on measurement in quantum mechanics, the statistical nature of our knowledge of reality and philosophical speculation about the role of the observer. QM has since branched out into almost every aspect of 20th century physics and other disciplines such as quantum chemistry, quantum electronics, quantum optics and quantum information science. Much 19th century physics has been re-evaluated as the classical limit of QM, and its more advanced developments in terms of quantum field theory and speculative quantum gravity theories.

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