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quantum


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(pl. quanta)

The minimum amount by which certain properties, such as energy or angular momentum, of a system can change. Such properties do not, therefore, vary continuously, but in integral multiples of the relevant quantum, and are described as quantized. This concept forms the basis of the quantum theory. In waves and fields the quantum can be regarded as an excitation, giving a particle-like interpretation to the wave or field. Thus, the quantum of the electromagnetic field is the photon and the graviton is the quantum of the gravitational field.

Subjects: Chemistry.


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