Chapter

Never Certain

Michael Munowitz

in Knowing

Published in print January 2006 | ISBN: 9780195167375
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787104 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195167375.003.0007
Never Certain

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The grain of nature is not infinitesimally fine. Neither momentum nor energy nor anything else in nature can be sliced so thinly as to fade away on a microscopic scale. Every transaction is processed in small but nonzero amounts (in quanta, the low-value coin of the realm), and the inevitable small disturbances stand out when the affected system is small itself. The classical certainty of the Moon’s orbit thus proves to be an illusion created by the minuscule disturbance of a huge body. For an electron, the more fundamental laws of quantum mechanics come to the fore. A discussion of Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle and the wave-particle duality sets the stage for more to come.

Keywords: Heisenberg uncertainty principle; indeterminacy principle; quantum mechanics; wave-particle duality

Chapter.  6190 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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