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Mathematically equivalent formulations of quantum mechanics[edit]

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Mathematically equivalent formulations of quantum mechanics[edit]

There are numerous mathematically equivalent formulations of quantum mechanics. One of the oldest and most commonly used formulations is the "transformation theory" proposed by Paul Dirac, which unifies and generalizes the two earliest formulations of quantum mechanics - matrix mechanics (invented by Werner Heisenberg) and wave mechanics (invented by Erwin Schrödinger).[35]

Especially since Werner Heisenberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1932 for the creation of quantum mechanics, the role of Max Born in the development of QM was overlooked until the 1954 Nobel award. The role is noted in a 2005 biography of Born, which recounts his role in the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics, and the use of probability amplitudes. Heisenberg himself acknowledges having learned matrices from Born, as published in a 1940 festschrifthonoring Max Planck.[36] In the matrix formulation, the instantaneous state of a quantum system encodes the probabilities of its measurable properties, or "observables". Examples of observables include energypositionmomentum, and angular momentum. Observables can be either continuous (e.g., the position of a particle) or discrete (e.g., the energy of an electron bound to a hydrogen atom).[37] An alternative formulation of quantum mechanics is Feynman's path integral formulation, in which a quantum-mechanical amplitude is considered as a sum over all possible classical and non-classical paths between the initial and final states. This is the quantum-mechanical counterpart of the action principle in classical mechanics.

Interactions with other scientific theories[edit]

The rules of quantum mechanics are fundamental. They assert that the state space of a system is a Hilbert space and that observables of that system are Hermitian operatorsacting on that space—although they do not tell us which Hilbert space or which operators. These can be chosen appropriately in order to obtain a quantitative description of a quantum system. An important guide for making these choices is the correspondence principle, which states that the predictions of quantum mechanics reduce to those of classical mechanics when a system moves to higher energies or, equivalently, larger quantum numbers, i.e. whereas a single particle exhibits a degree of randomness, in systems incorporating millions of particles averaging takes over and, at the high energy limit, the statistical probability of random behaviour approaches zero. In other words, classical mechanics is simply a quantum mechanics of large systems. This "high energy" limit is known as the classical or correspondence limit. One can even start from an established classical model of a particular system, then attempt to guess the underlying quantum model that would give rise to the classical model in the correspondence limit.

Unsolved problem in physics:

In the correspondence limit of quantum mechanics: Is there a preferred interpretation of quantum mechanics? How does the quantum description of reality, which includes elements such as the "superpositionof states" and "wave function collapse", give rise to the reality we perceive?
(more unsolved problems in physics)

When quantum mechanics was originally formulated, it was applied to models whose correspondence limit was non-relativistic classical mechanics. For instance, the well-known model of the quantum harmonic oscillator uses an explicitly non-relativistic expression for the kinetic energy of the oscillator, and is thus a quantum version of the classical harmonic oscillator.

Early attempts to merge quantum mechanics with special relativity involved the replacement of the Schrödinger equation with a covariant equation such as the Klein–Gordon equation or the Dirac equation. While these theories were successful in explaining many experimental results, they had certain unsatisfactory qualities stemming from their neglect of the relativistic creation and annihilation of particles. A fully relativistic quantum theory required the development ofquantum field theory, which applies quantization to a field (rather than a fixed set of particles). The first complete quantum field theory, quantum electrodynamics, provides a fully quantum description of the electromagnetic interaction. The full apparatus of quantum field theory is often unnecessary for describing electrodynamic systems. A simpler approach, one that has been employed since the inception of quantum mechanics, is to treat charged particles as quantum mechanical objects being acted on by a classicalelectromagnetic field. For example, the elementary quantum model of the hydrogen atom describes the electric field of the hydrogen atom using a classical {\displaystyle \scriptstyle -e^{2}/(4\pi \ \epsilon _{_{0}}\ r)} Coulomb potential. This "semi-classical" approach fails if quantum fluctuations in the electromagnetic field play an important role, such as in the emission of photons by charged particles.

Quantum field theories for the strong nuclear force and the weak nuclear force have also been developed. The quantum field theory of the strong nuclear force is called quantum chromodynamics, and describes the interactions of subnuclear particles such as quarks and gluons. The weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force were unified, in their quantized forms, into a single quantum field theory (known as electroweak theory), by the physicists Abdus SalamSheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg. These three men shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979 for this work.[38]

It has proven difficult to construct quantum models of gravity, the remaining fundamental force. Semi-classical approximations are workable, and have led to predictions such asHawking radiation. However, the formulation of a complete theory of quantum gravity is hindered by apparent incompatibilities between general relativity (the most accurate theory of gravity currently known) and some of the fundamental assumptions of quantum theory. The resolution of these incompatibilities is an area of active research, and theories such as string theory are among the possible candidates for a future theory of quantum gravity.

Classical mechanics has also been extended into the complex domain, with complex classical mechanics exhibiting behaviors similar to quantum mechanics.[39]

Quantum mechanics and classical physics[edit]

Predictions of quantum mechanics have been verified experimentally to an extremely high degree of accuracy.[40] According to the correspondence principle between classical and quantum mechanics, all objects obey the laws of quantum mechanics, and classical mechanics is just an approximation for large systems of objects (or a statistical quantum mechanics of a large collection of particles).[41] The laws of classical mechanics thus follow from the laws of quantum mechanics as a statistical average at the limit of large systems or large quantum numbers.[42] However, chaotic systems do not have good quantum numbers, and quantum chaos studies the relationship between classical and quantum descriptions in these systems.

Quantum coherence is an essential difference between classical and quantum theories as illustrated by the Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen (EPR) paradox — an attack on a certain philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics by an appeal to local realism.[43] Quantum interference involves adding together probability amplitudes, whereas classical "waves" infer that there is an adding together of intensities. For microscopic bodies, the extension of the system is much smaller than the coherence length, which gives rise to long-range entanglement and other nonlocal phenomena characteristic of quantum systems.[44] Quantum coherence is not typically evident at macroscopic scales, though an exception to this rule may occur at extremely low temperatures (i.e. approaching absolute zero) at which quantum behavior may manifest itself macroscopically.[45] This is in accordance with the following observations:

- Many macroscopic properties of a classical system are a direct consequence of the quantum behavior of its parts. For example, the stability of bulk matter (consisting of atoms and molecules which would quickly collapse under electric forces alone), the rigidity of solids, and the mechanical, thermal, chemical, optical and magnetic properties of matter are all results of the interaction of electric charges under the rules of quantum mechanics.

- While the seemingly "exotic" behavior of matter posited by quantum mechanics and relativity theory become more apparent when dealing with particles of extremely small size or velocities approaching the speed of light, the laws of classical, often considered "Newtonian", physics remain accurate in predicting the behavior of the vast majority of "large" objects (on the order of the size of large molecules or bigger) at velocities much smaller than the velocity of light.[47]

Copenhagen interpretation of quantum versus classical kinematics[edit]

A big difference between classical and quantum mechanics is that they use very different kinematic descriptions.

In Niels Bohr's mature view, quantum mechanical phenomena are required to be experiments, with complete descriptions of all the devices for the system, preparative, intermediary, and finally measuring. The descriptions are in macroscopic terms, expressed in ordinary language, supplemented with the concepts of classical mechanics. The initial condition and the final condition of the system are respectively described by values in a configuration space, for example a position space, or some equivalent space such as a momentum space. Quantum mechanics does not admit a completely precise description, in terms of both position and momentum, of an initial condition or "state" (in the classical sense of the word) that would support a precisely deterministic and causal prediction of a final condition.[53][54] In this sense, advocated by Bohr in his mature writings, a quantum phenomenon is a process, a passage from initial to final condition, not an instantaneous "state" in the classical sense of that word. Thus there are two kinds of processes in quantum mechanics: stationary and transitional. For a stationary process, the initial and final condition are the same. For a transition, they are different. Obviously by definition, if only the initial condition is given, the process is not determined.  Given its initial condition, prediction of its final condition is possible, causally but only probabilistically, because the Schrödinger equation is deterministic for wave function evolution, but the wave function describes the system only probabilistically.

For many experiments, it is possible to think of the initial and final conditions of the system as being a particle. In some cases it appears that there are potentially several spatially distinct pathways or trajectories by which a particle might pass from initial to final condition. It is an important feature of the quantum kinematic description that it does not permit a unique definite statement of which of those pathways is actually followed. Only the initial and final conditions are definite, and, as stated in the foregoing paragraph, they are defined only as precisely as allowed by the configuration space description or its equivalent. In every case for which a quantum kinematic description is needed, there is always a compelling reason for this restriction of kinematic precision. An example of such a reason is that for a particle to be experimentally found in a definite position, it must be held motionless; for it to be experimentally found to have a definite momentum, it must have free motion; these two are logically incompatible.

Classical kinematics does not primarily demand experimental description of its phenomena. It allows completely precise description of an instantaneous state by a value in phase space, the Cartesian product of configuration and momentum spaces. This description simply assumes or imagines a state as a physically existing entity without concern about its experimental measurability. Such a description of an initial condition, together with Newton's laws of motion, allows a precise deterministic and causal prediction of a final condition, with a definite trajectory of passage. Hamiltonian dynamics can be used for this. Classical kinematics also allows the description of a process analogous to the initial and final condition description used by quantum mechanics. Lagrangian mechanics applies to this. For processes that need account to be taken of actions of a small number of Planck constants, classical kinematics is not adequate; quantum mechanics is needed.

General relativity and quantum mechanics[edit]

Even with the defining postulates of both Einstein's theory of general relativity and quantum theory being indisputably supported by rigorous and repeated empirical evidence, and while they do not directly contradict each other theoretically (at least with regard to their primary claims), they have proven extremely difficult to incorporate into one consistent, cohesive model.

Gravity is negligible in many areas of particle physics, so that unification between general relativity and quantum mechanics is not an urgent issue in those particular applications. However, the lack of a correct theory of quantum gravity is an important issue in cosmology and the search by physicists for an elegant "Theory of Everything" (TOE). Consequently, resolving the inconsistencies between both theories has been a major goal of 20th and 21st century physics. Many prominent physicists, including Stephen Hawking, have labored for many years in the attempt to discover a theory underlying everything. This TOE would combine not only the different models of subatomic physics, but also derive the four fundamental forces of nature - the strong forceelectromagnetism, the weak force, and gravity - from a single force or phenomenon. While Stephen Hawking was initially a believer in the Theory of Everything, after considering Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem, he has concluded that one is not obtainable, and has stated so publicly in his lecture "Gödel and the End of Physics" (2002).

Attempts at a unified field theory[edit]

Main article: Grand unified theory

The quest to unify the fundamental forces through quantum mechanics is still ongoing. Quantum electrodynamics (or "quantum electromagnetism"), which is currently (in the perturbative regime at least) the most accurately tested physical theory in competition with general relativity,[64][65] has been successfully merged with the weak nuclear force into the electroweak force and work is currently being done to merge the electroweak and strong force into the electrostrong force. Current predictions state that at around 1014 GeV the three aforementioned forces are fused into a single unified field.[66] Beyond this "grand unification", it is speculated that it may be possible to merge gravity with the other three gauge symmetries, expected to occur at roughly 1019 GeV. However — and while special relativity is parsimoniously incorporated into quantum electrodynamics — the expanded general relativity, currently the best theory describing the gravitation force, has not been fully incorporated into quantum theory. One of those searching for a coherent TOE is Edward Witten, a theoretical physicist who formulated the M-theory, which is an attempt at describing the supersymmetrical based string theory. M-theory posits that our apparent 4-dimensional spacetime is, in reality, actually an 11-dimensional spacetime containing 10 spatial dimensions and 1 time dimension, although 7 of the spatial dimensions are - at lower energies - completely "compactified" (or infinitely curved) and not readily amenable to measurement or probing.

Another popular theory is Loop quantum gravity (LQG), a theory first proposed by Carlo Rovelli that describes the quantum properties of gravity. It is also a theory of quantum space and quantum time, because in general relativity the geometry of spacetime is a manifestation of gravity. LQG is an attempt to merge and adapt standard quantum mechanics and standard general relativity. The main output of the theory is a physical picture of space where space is granular. The granularity is a direct consequence of the quantization. It has the same nature of the granularity of the photons in the quantum theory of electromagnetism or the discrete levels of the energy of the atoms. But here it is space itself which is discrete. More precisely, space can be viewed as an extremely fine fabric or network "woven" of finite loops. These networks of loops are called spin networks. The evolution of a spin network over time is called a spin foam. The predicted size of this structure is the Planck length, which is approximately 1.616×10−35 m. According to theory, there is no meaning to length shorter than this (cf. Planck scale energy). Therefore, LQG predicts that not just matter, but also space itself, has an atomic structure.

Nuclear physic

In 1932 Chadwick realized that radiation that had been observed by Walther BotheHerbert BeckerIrène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie was actually due to a neutral particle of about the same mass as the proton, that he called the neutron (following a suggestion from Rutherford about the need for such a particle).[8] In the same year Dmitri Ivanenkosuggested that there were no electrons in the nucleus — only protons and neutrons — and that neutrons were spin 12 particles which explained the mass not due to protons. The neutron spin immediately solved the problem of the spin of nitrogen-14, as the one unpaired proton and one unpaired neutron in this model each contributed a spin of 12 in the same direction, giving a final total spin of 1.

With the discovery of the neutron, scientists could at last calculate what fraction of binding energy each nucleus had, by comparing the nuclear mass with that of the protons and neutrons which composed it. Differences between nuclear masses were calculated in this way. When nuclear reactions were measured, these were found to agree with Einstein's calculation of the equivalence of mass and energy to within 1% as of 1934.

A heavy nucleus can contain hundreds of nucleons. This means that with some approximation it can be treated as a classical system, rather than a quantum-mechanical one. In the resulting liquid-drop model, the nucleus has an energy which arises partly from surface tension and partly from electrical repulsion of the protons. The liquid-drop model is able to reproduce many features of nuclei, including the general trend of binding energy with respect to mass number, as well as the phenomenon of nuclear fission.

Superimposed on this classical picture, however, are quantum-mechanical effects, which can be described using the nuclear shell model, developed in large part by Maria Goeppert Mayer  and J. Hans D. Jensen. Nuclei with certain numbers of neutrons and protons (the magic numbers 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, 126, ...) are particularly stable, because their shells are filled.

Other more complicated models for the nucleus have also been proposed, such as the interacting boson model, in which pairs of neutrons and protons interact as bosons, analogously to Cooper pairs of electrons.

Much of current research in nuclear physics relates to the study of nuclei under extreme conditions such as high spin and excitation energy. Nuclei may also have extreme shapes (similar to that of Rugby balls or even pears) or extreme neutron-to-proton ratios. Experimenters can create such nuclei using artificially induced fusion or nucleon transfer reactions, employing ion beams from an accelerator. Beams with even higher energies can be used to create nuclei at very high temperatures, and there are signs that these experiments have produced a phase transition from normal nuclear matter to a new state, the quark–gluon plasma, in which the quarks mingle with one another, rather than being segregated in triplets as they are in neutrons and protons.

Physical cosmology

Main article: Physical cosmology

Physical cosmology is the branch of physics and astrophysics that deals with the study of the physical origins and evolution of the Universe. It also includes the study of the nature of the Universe on a large scale. In its earliest form, it was what is now known as "celestial mechanics", the study of the heavens. Greek philosophers Aristarchus of Samos,Aristotle, and Ptolemy proposed different cosmological theories. The geocentric Ptolemaic system was the prevailing theory until the 16th century when Nicolas Copernicus, and subsequently Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilee, proposed a heliocentric system. This is one of the most famous examples of epistemological rupture in physical cosmology.

When Isaac Newton published the Principia Mathematical in 1687, he finally figured out how the heavens moved. Newton provided a physical mechanism for Kepler's laws and his law of universal gravitation allowed the anomalies in previous systems, caused by gravitational interaction between the planets, to be resolved. A fundamental difference between Newton's cosmology and those preceding it was the Copernican principle—that the bodies on earth obey the same physical laws as all the celestial bodies. This was a crucial philosophical advance in physical cosmology.

Evidence of gravitational waves in the infant universe may have been uncovered by the microscopic examination of the focal plane of theBICEP2 radio telescope.

Modern scientific cosmology is usually considered to have begun in 1917 with Albert Einstein's publication of his final modification of general relativity in the paper "Cosmological Considerations of the General Theory of Relativity" (although this paper was not widely available outside of Germany until the end of World War I). General relativity prompted cosmogonists such as Willem de SitterKarl Schwarzschild, and Arthur Eddington to explore its astronomical ramifications, which enhanced the ability of astronomers to study very distant objects. Physicists began changing the assumption that the Universe was static and unchanging. In 1922 Alexander Friedmann introduced the idea of an expanding universe that contained moving matter.

In parallel to this dynamic approach to cosmology, one long-standing debate about the structure of the cosmos was coming to a climax. Mount Wilson astronomer Harlow Shapley championed the model of a cosmos made up of the Milky Way star system only; while Heber D. Curtis argued for the idea that spiral nebulae were star systems in their own right as island universes. This difference of ideas came to a climax with the organization of the Great Debate on 26 April 1920 at the meeting of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. The debate was resolved when Edwin Hubble detected novae in the Andromeda galaxy in 1923 and 1924. Their distance established spiral nebulae well beyond the edge of the Milky Way.

Subsequent modelling of the universe explored the possibility that the cosmological constant, introduced by Einstein in his 1917 paper, may result in an expanding universe, depending on its value. Thus the Big Bang model was proposed by the Belgian priest Georges Lemaître in 1927 which was subsequently corroborated by Edwin Hubble's discovery of the red shift in 1929 and later by the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Arno Penzias and Robert Woodrow Wilson in 1964. These findings were a first step to rule out some of many alternative cosmologies.

Since around 1990, several dramatic advances in observational cosmology have transformed cosmology from a largely speculative science into a predictive science with precise agreement between theory and observation. These advances include observations of the microwave background from the COBEWMAP and Planck satellites, large new galaxyredshift surveys including 2dfGRS and SDSS, and observations of distant supernovae and gravitational lending. These observations matched the predictions of the cosmic inflation theory, a modified Big Bang theory, and the specific version known as the Lambda-CDM model. This has led many to refer to modern times as the "golden age of cosmology".

On 17 March 2014, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics announced the detection of gravitational waves, providing strong evidence for inflation and the Big Bang.[9][10][11] However, on 19 June 2014, lowered confidence in confirming the cosmic inflation findings was reported.[13][14][15]

On 1 December 2014, at the Planck 2014 meeting in FerraraItaly, astronomers reported that the universe is 13.8 billion years old and is composed of 4.9% atomic matter, 26.6% dark matter and 68.5% dark energy.

Religious or mythological cosmology[edit]

See also: Religious cosmology

Religious or mythological cosmology is a body of beliefs based on mythologicalreligious, and esoteric literature and traditions of creation and eschatology.

Philosophical cosmology[edit]

See also: Philosophy of cosmology

Cosmology deals with the world as the totality of space, time and all phenomena. Historically, it has had quite a broad scope, and in many cases was founded in religion. The ancient Greeks did not draw a distinction between this use and their model for the cosmos. However, in modern use metaphysical cosmology addresses questions about the Universe which are beyond the scope of science. It is distinguished from religious cosmology in that it approaches these questions using philosophical methods like dialectics. Modern metaphysical cosmology tries to address questions such as:


Observational astronomy is a division of the astronomical science that is concerned with recording data, in contrast with theoretical astrophysics, which is mainly concerned with finding out the measurable implications of physical models. It is the practice of observing celestial objects by using telescopes and other astronomical apparatus.

The majority of astrophysical observations are made using the electromagnetic spectrum.

- Radio astronomy studies radiation with a wavelength greater than a few millimeters. Example areas of study are radio waves, usually emitted by cold objects such as interstellar gas and dust clouds; the cosmic microwave background radiation which is the redshirted light from the Big Bangpulsars, which were first detected at microwave frequencies. The study of these waves requires very large radio telescopes.

- Infrared astronomy studies radiation with a wavelength that is too long to be visible to the naked eye but is shorter than radio waves. Infrared observations are usually made with telescopes similar to the familiar optical telescopes. Objects colder than stars (such as planets) are normally studied at infrared frequencies.

- Optical astronomy is the oldest kind of astronomy. Telescopes paired with a charge-coupled device or spectroscopes are the most common instruments used. The Earth's atmosphere interferes somewhat with optical observations, so adaptive optics and space telescopes are used to obtain the highest possible image quality. In this wavelength range, stars are highly visible, and many chemical spectra can be observed to study the chemical composition of stars, galaxies and nebulae.

- UltravioletX-ray and gamma ray astronomy study very energetic processes such as binary pulsarsblack holesmagentas, and many others. These kinds of radiation do not penetrate the Earth's atmosphere well. There are two methods in use to observe this part of the electromagnetic spectrum—space-based telescopes and ground-based imaging air Cherenkov telescopes (IACT). Examples of Observatories of the first type are RXTE, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory. Examples of IACTs are the High Energy Stereoscopic System (H.E.S.S.) and the MAGIC telescope.

Other than electromagnetic radiation, few things may be observed from the Earth that originate from great distances. A few gravitational wave observatories have been constructed, but gravitational waves are extremely difficult to detect. Neutrino observatories have also been built, primarily to study our Sun. Cosmic rays consisting of very high energy particles can be observed hitting the Earth's atmosphere.

Observations can also vary in their time scale. Most optical observations take minutes to hours, so phenomena that change faster than this cannot readily be observed. However, historical data on some objects is available, spanning centuries or millennia. On the other hand, radio observations may look at events on a millisecond timescale (millisecond pulsars) or combine years of data (pulsar deceleration studies). The information obtained from these different timescales is very different.

The study of our very own Sun has a special place in observational astrophysics. Due to the tremendous distance of all other stars, the Sun can be observed in a kind of detail unparalleled by any other star. Our understanding of our own Sun serves as a guide to our understanding of other stars.

The topic of how stars change, or stellar evolution, is often modeled by placing the varieties of star types in their respective positions on the Hertz sprung–Russell diagram, which can be viewed as representing the state of a stellar object, from birth to destruction.

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