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In every previous application of the quantum law, Plank's law, that the energy is h [Plank's constant] times the frequency, had been used to deduce the energy of a quantum when the frequency of the radiation was already known. In the present case the formula was used the other way; the energy of the emitted photon was known to begin with, and the formula was utilized to deduce its frequency. The frequencies calculated in this way are found to agree completely and exactly with those of the spectrum of hydrogen.
James Jeans
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A similar situation occurred in astronomy, where the Newtonian law of gravitation had been found to predict the orbits of the outer planets with great accuracy, but had failed with the orbits of Mercury and Venus. The relativity theory of gravitation had provided the necessary modification of Newton's law, and in working out the details of the new theory, Einstein had utilized the fact that Newtonian law gave the right result at great distances from the sun. Heisenberg, confronted with a similar problem, was able to avail himself of the fact that the classical mechanics gave the right result at great distances from the atomic nucleus. Here, and here alone Heisenberg's theory made contact with the world of the older physics.
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Superficially at least the forces of electricity and magnetism seem to present the same kind of problem as gravitation. Experiment shows that two electrically charged bodies attract one another (or repel if their charges are of the same kind) with a force which conforms to the same mathematical law as the force of gravitation - both forces fall off inversely as the inverse square of the distance. The same is true of the magnetic force also; two magnetic poles attract or repel one another with a force which again follows the law of the inverse square of the distance.
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The concepts which now prove to be fundamental to our understanding of nature—a space which is finite; a space which is empty, so that one point [of our 'material' world] differs from another solely in the properties of space itself; four-dimensional, seven- and more dimensional spaces; a space which for ever expands; a sequence of events which follows the laws of probability instead of the law of causation—or alternatively, a sequence of events which can only be fully and consistently described by going outside of space and time—all these concepts seem to my mind to be structures of pure thought, incapable of realisation in any sense which would properly be described as material.
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The laws which governed the spontaneous jumps of the kangaroos were shown to be of the simplest; out of any number of kangaroos a certain proportion always jumped within a specified time, and nothing seemed to be able to change this number. Also, before the jumps took place, there was nothing in the world of phenomena to distinguish those kangaroos that were about to jump from those that were not... to help fill the quota demanded by the statistical law. As discontinuity marched into the world of phenomena through one door, causality walked out through another.
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Gravitational force is simple, and a thing by itself, as also are electric and magnetic forces as long as the electric and magnetic poles stand at rest. But as soon as motion comes into the picture, the whole situation is changed. Forces of new kinds come into play, for moving electric charges exert magnetic forces in addition to the electric forces they exert when at rest, while moving magnets exert electric forces in addition to the magnetic forces they exert while at rest. When the exact laws governing these intricate laws had been discovered by a great number of experimenters, Clerk Maxwell succeeded in expressing them in a mathematical form which was both simple and elegant.
James Jeans
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Any region of space-time that has no gravitating mass in its vicinity is uncurved, so that the geodesics here are straight lines, which means that particles move in straight courses at uniform speeds (Newton's first law). But the world-lines of planets, comets and terrestrial projectiles are geodesics in a region of space-time which is curved by the proximity of the sun or earth... No force of gravitation is... needed to impress curvature on world-lines; the curvature is inherent in the space...
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A theoretical investigation which Einstein published in 1917 provides a third conspicuous landmark. It connected up he two great landmarks already mentioned by showing that the disintegration of radioactive substances is governed by the same laws as the jumps of the kangaroo electrons in the theory of Bohr. In fact radioactive atoms were now seen merely to contain a special breed of kangaroos, much more energetic and ferocious than any that had hitherto been encountered.
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A second conspicuous landmark... is the enunciation of the fundamental law of radioactive disintegration by Rutherford and Soddy in 1903. This law was in no sense a consequence or development of Plank's theories; indeed fourteen years were to elapse before any connection was noticed between the two. The new law asserted that the atoms of radioactive substances broke up spontaneously, and not because of any particular conditions or special happenings. This seemed to involve an even more startling break with classical theory than the new laws of Plank; radioactive break-up appeared to be an effect without a cause, and suggested that the ultimate laws of nature were not even causal.
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The fabric of the universe weathers, crumbles, and dissolves with age, and no restoration or reconstruction is possible. The second law of thermodynamics compels the material universe to move ever in the same direction along the same road, a road which ends only in death and annihilation.
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It can hardly be disputed that nature and our conscious mathematical minds work according to the same laws.
James Jeans
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Accustom yourself continually to make many acts of love, for they enkindle and melt the soul.
Teresa of Ávila
James Jeans
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Born:
September 11, 1877
Died:
September 16, 1946
(aged 69)
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