A Quantum Leap

The autonomy of on-line learning is intoxicating and disorienting. I was irritated when I could not get an answer to a simple question this week from my pricey certification program: “How was the value of v used in the equation example on page 5 of Chapter 2.4 generated?” Later that same morning I was overwhelmed by the gift of Salman Kahn delivering the best Chemistry lecture I have ever heard in my life at his site that promises to be “Completely Free, Forever.” This landscape of learning gets curiouser and curiouser every day; a Wonderland not unlike the world of Chemistry in the early 1900’s.

Thanks to classic physics, we were mostly comfortable with our models of matter (particles) and light (waves).  However, there were four behaviors that consistently did not fit and we knew that if we didn’t understand all of it then we didn’t understand any of it. So Planck proposed that in some situations, solids act like waves. Even though his math checked out, this was at such odds with accepted theory that even he did not accept his findings. Then Einstein used Planck’s model, and his constant, and applied it successfully to light waves. Black Body Radiation, the Photoelectric Effect, Absorption and Emission of Light, and Atomic Structure and Stability were solved! The Theory of Quantum Mechanics was born, where light is made of particles and solids are in constant vibration. I am still a little disoriented but I am looking forward to taking a closer look next week.

Next Up: Through the Looking Glass

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