The Problems with Classical Physics

By the late nineteenth century the laws of physics were based on Mechanics and the law of Gravitation from Newton, Maxwell's equations describing Electricity and Magnetism, and on Statistical Mechanics describing the state of large collection of matter. These laws of physics described nature very well under most conditions, however, some measurements of the late 19th and early 20th century could not be understood. The problems with classical physics led to the development of Quantum Mechanics and Special Relativity.

Some of the problems leading to the development of Quantum Mechanics are listed here.

Quantum Mechanics incorporates a wave-particle duality and explains all of the above phenomena. In doing so, Quantum Mechanics changes our understanding of nature in fundamental ways. While the classical laws of physics are deterministic, QM is probabilistic. We can only predict the probability that a particle will be found in some region of space.

Electromagnetic waves like light are made up of particles we call photons. Einstein, based on Plank's formula, hypothesized that the particles of light had energy proportional to their frequency.


The new idea of Quantum Mechanics is that every particle's probability (as a function of position and time) is equal to the square of a probability amplitude function and that these probability amplitudes obey a wave equation. This is much like the case in electromagnetism where the energy density goes like the square of the field and hence the photon probability density goes like the square of the field, yet the field is made up of waves. So probability amplitudes are like the fields we know from electromagnetism in many ways.

DeBroglie assumed \bgroup\color{black}$E=h\nu$\egroup for photons and other particles and used Lorentz invariance (from special relativity) to derive the wavelength for particles like electrons.

\begin{displaymath}\bgroup\color{black}\lambda={h\over p}\egroup\end{displaymath}

The rest of wave mechanics was built around these ideas, giving a complete picture that could explain the above measurements and could be tested to very high accuracy, particularly in the hydrogen atom. We will spend several chapters exploring these ideas.

* Example: Assume the photon is a particle with the standard deBroglie wavelength. Use kinematics to derive the wavelength of the scattered photon as a function of angle for Compton Scattering.*

Gasiorowicz Chapter 1

Rohlf Chapters 3,6

Griffiths does not really cover this.

Cohen-Tannoudji et al. Chapter

Jim Branson 2013-04-22