101 Quantum Questions: What You Need to Know About the World You Can't See

101 Quantum Questions: What You Need to Know About the World You Can't See


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Ken Ford’s mission is to help us understand the “great ideas” of quantum physics—ideas such as wave-particle duality, the uncertainty principle, superposition, and conservation. These fundamental concepts provide the structure for 101 Quantum Questions, an authoritative yet engaging book for the general reader in which every question and answer brings out one or more basic features of the mysterious world of the quantum—the physics of the very small.

Nuclear researcher and master teacher, Ford covers everything from quarks, quantum jumps, and what causes stars to shine, to practical applications ranging from lasers and superconductors to light-emitting diodes. Ford’s lively answers are enriched by Paul Hewitt's drawings, numerous photos of physicists, and anecdotes, many from Ford’s own experience. Organized for cover-to-cover reading, 101 Quantum Questions also is great for browsing.

Some books focus on a single subject such as the standard model of particles, or string theory, or fusion energy. This book touches all those topics and more, showing us that disparate natural phenomena, as well as a host of manmade inventions, can be understood in terms of a few key ideas. Yet Ford does not give us simplistic explanations. He assumes a serious reader wanting to gain real understanding of the essentials of quantum physics.

Ken Ford's other books include The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone (Harvard 2004), which Esquire magazine recommended as the best way to gain an understanding of quantum physics. Ford's new book, a sequel to the earlier one, makes the quantum world even more accessible.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674066076
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 10/22/2012
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 8.30(w) x 6.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Kenneth W. Ford, retired director of the American Institute of Physics, has taught at university and high-school levels. His books include The Quantum World: Quantum Physics for Everyone and a memoir, In Love with Flying.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

I The Subatomic World

1 What is a quantum, anyway? 3

2 Where do the laws of quantum physics hold sway? 5

3 What is the correspondence principle? 7

4 How big is an atom? 9

5 What is inside an atom? 9

6 Why is solid matter solid if it is mostly empty space? 13

7 How big is an electron? Is there anything inside it? 14

II Digging Deeper

8 How big is a nucleus? What is inside it? 18

9 How big are protons and neutrons? What is inside them? 22

10 What is Planck's constant and what is its significance? 24

11 What is a photon? 27

12 What is the photoelectric effect? 29

13 What particles are believed to be fundamental? What particles are composite? 30

14 What is the standard model? 33

III The Small and the Swift

15 What are some quantum scales of distance? 34

16 How far can one particle "reach out" to influence another one? 35

17 How fast do particles move? 38

18 What are some quantum scales of time? 40

19 What is the meaning of E = mc2? 41

20 What is electric charge? 44

21 What is spin? 46

IV Quantum Lumps and Quantum Jumps

22 What are some things that are lumpy (and some that are not)? 50

23 What is a "state of motion"? 52

24 Is a hydrogen atom in an excited state of motion the same atom in a different state or is it a different atom? 54

25 What are quantum numbers? What are the rules for combining them? 56

26 What is a quantum jump? 61

27 What is the role of probability in quantum physics? 64

28 Is there any certainty in the quantum world? 68

V Atoms and Nuclei

29 What is a line spectrum? What does it reveal about atoms? 70

30 Why is the chart of the elements periodic? 75

31 Why are heavy atoms nearly the same size as lightweight atoms? 78

32 How do protons and neutrons move within a nucleus? 79

33 What are atomic number and atomic mass? 83

VI And More about Nuclei

34 Why does the periodic table end? 85

35 What is radioactivity? What are its forms? 87

36 Why is the neutron stable within a nucleus but unstable when alone? 92

37 What is nuclear fission? Why does it release energy? 94

38 What about nuclear fusion? 98

VII Particles

39 What is a lepton? What are its flavors? 101

40 How many distinct neutrinos are there? How do we know? 105

41 Do neutrinos have mass? Why do they "oscillate"? 108

42 Are there really only three generations of particles? 114

43 How do we know that all electrons are identical? 116

VIII And More Particles

44 Names, names, names. What do they all mean? 118

45 What are the properties of quarks? How do they combine? 119

46 What are the composite particles? How many are there? 123

47 Does every particle have to be a fermion or a boson? What sets these two classes apart? 126

48 What is a Bose-Einstein condensate? 130

49 How did bosons and fermions get their names? 133

IX Interactions

50 What is a Feynman diagram? 137

51 What are the essential features of Feynman diagrams? 141

52 How do Feynman diagrams illustrate the strong, weak, and electromagnetic interactions? 144

53 Which particles are stable? Which are unstable? What does it mean to say that a particle decays? 148

54 What is scattering? 149

55 What is the same before and after a scattering or a decay? 151

56 What changes during a scattering or decay? 152

X Constancy during Change

57 What are the "big four" absolute conservation laws? 154

58 What additional absolute conservation laws operate in the quantum world? 156

59 What is the TCP theorem? 157

60 What conservation laws are only "partial"? 160

61 What symmetry principles are only "partial"? 163

62 What are laws of compulsion and of prohibition? 167

63 . How are the concepts of symmetry, invariance, and conservation related? 169

XI Waves and Particles

64 What do waves and particles have in common? How do they differ? 173

65 What is the de Broglie equation? What is its significance? 174

66 How are waves related to quantum lumps? 177

67 How do waves relate to the size of atoms? 180

68 What is diffraction? What is interference? 182

69 What is the two-slit experiment? Why is it important? 183

70 What is tunneling? 186

XII Waves and Probability

71 What is a wave function? What is Schrödinger's equation? 189

72 How do waves determine probabilities? 192

73 How do waves prevent particles from having fixed positions? 195

74 What is the uncertainty principle? 197

75 How does the uncertainty principle relate to the wave nature of matter? 199

76 What is superposition? 202

77 Are waves necessary? 204

XIII Quantum Physics and Technology

78 How are particles pushed close to the speed of light? 207

79 How are high-energy particles detected? 211

80 How does a laser work? 215

81 How do electrons behave in a metal? 218

82 What is a semiconductor? 220

83 What is a p-n junction? Why is it a diode? 222

84 What are some uses of diodes? 224

85 What is a transistor? 226

XIV Quantum Physics at Every Scale

86 Why do black holes evaporate? 228

87 How does quantum physics operate in the center of the Sun? 231

88 What is superconductivity? 233

89 What is superfluidity? 236

90 What is a Josephson junction? 237

91 What is a quantum dot? 239

92 What is a quark-gluon plasma? 240

93 What is the Planck length? What is quantum foam? 242

XV Frontiers and Puzzles

94 Why are physicists in love with the number 137? 244

95 What is entanglement? 247

96 What is Bell's inequality? 250

97 What is a qubit? What is quantum computing? 253

98 What is the Higgs particle? Why is it important? 255

99 What is string theory? 257

100 What is the "measurement problem"? 259

101 How come the quantum? 263

Appendix A 265

Appendix B 271

Acknowledgments 275

Index 277

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