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Wednesday, 4 July 2012

The Matter of Matters -Post1





Go back a little more than a century to the late 1800s, and look at the field of physics: a mature science, and rather complacent. There were those who believed there wasn’t much more to do than smooth out some rough edges in nature’s plan. There was a sensible order to things, a clockwork universe governed by Newtonian forces, with atoms as the foundation of matter. Atoms were indivisible by definition.


But then strange things started popping up in laboratories: x-rays, gamma rays, a mysterious phenomenon called radioactivity. Physicist J. J. Thomson discovered the electron. Atoms were not indivisible after all, but had constituents. Was it, as Thomson believed, a pudding, with electrons embedded like raisins? No.
In 1911 physicist Ernest Rutherford announced that atoms are mostly empty space, their mass concentrated in a tiny nucleus orbited by electrons.


Physics underwent one revolution after another. Einstein’s special theory of relativity (1905) begat the general theory of relativity (1915), and suddenly even such reliable concepts as absolute space and absolute time had been discarded in favor of a mind-boggling space-time fabric in which two events can never be said to be simultaneous. Matter bends space; space directs how matter moves. Light is both a particle and a wave. Energy and mass are inter- changeable. Reality is probabilistic and not deterministic: Einstein didn’t believe that God plays dice with the universe, but that became the scientific orthodoxy.


By the early 1930s Ernest Lawrence had invented the first circular particle accelerator, or “cyclotron.” It fit in his hand.


We know things today that Einstein, Rutherford, Max Planck, Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and the rest of the great physicists of a century ago couldn’t have imagined. But we’re nowhere near a final theory of physical reality. Molecules are made of atoms; atoms are made of particles called protons, neutrons, and electrons; protons and neutrons are made of odd things called quarks and gluons—but already we’re into a fuzzy zone. Are quarks fundamental particles, or made of something smaller yet? .......
Courtesy National geographic
 - This is just an introduction about matters which you may also know  ...  
                              - To be continued....  >>Post2   >>Post3

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