Showing posts with label conceptual. Show all posts
Showing posts with label conceptual. Show all posts

5 Rules of Quantum Mechanics By Werner Heisenberg

quantum mechanics for beginners

German physicist Werner Heisenberg is well known as one of the founders of quantum mechanics. Heisenberg was only 25 years old when he arrived at the uncertainty principle, which became the basis of Bohr-Einstein debate on the nature of reality.

For his pioneering contributions, Heisenberg was recognized by the Nobel Prize committee in 1932. He was among the youngest recipients of the Nobel Prize. The following are five rules or lessons in quantum mechanics by one of its creators, Werner Heisenberg.

1. The more precise the measurement of position, the more imprecise the measurement of momentum - and vice versa.

This is how Heisenberg summarized uncertainty principle in one line. Niels Bohr proposed later on that "complementarity" is a fundamental feature of reality. In other words, particles have certain pairs of complementary properties which cannot be observed simultaneously.

Earlier, the words "position" and "velocity" of an electron seemed perfectly well defined as per the mathematical framework of Newtonian mechanics. But actually when we are going to such unimaginably small scales, they are not well defined in accordance with uncertainty equation.

2. Wave particle duality arises because of limitation in our language.

By nature, light and matter are single entities. However we cannot describe them as they are - hence the solution is to split their overall behavior into wave and particle like properties. Because that is the limitation of human language, says Heisenberg.

Our language was invented to study and describe the experiences of daily life consisting of processes and objects involving large numbers of atoms. The apparent duality at small scales is a result of this limitation.

3. All particles are made of the same substance: energy.

In quantum mechanics, the smallest units of matter are not physical objects in the ordinary sense - they are forms and ideas which can be expressed only by means of a mathematical language. This makes true what Pythagoras famously said: All things are numbers.

Moreover, particles are not eternal and indestructible - they can be transformed into each other. For example: if two particles moving with a very high kinetic energy collide, then many new elementary particles may be created from the available energy and the old particles will have disappeared in the collision.

4. What we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

According to Heisenberg, physics does not simply describe and explain nature; it is part of the interplay between nature and ourselves; it describes nature as exposed to our nature of questioning.

As a matter of fact, every experiment destroys some of the knowledge of the system which was obtained by previous experiments. Can nature possibly be so absurd? asked Heisenberg, as he struggled to make sense of the world.

5. If you're not shocked by quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics.

The very foundations of physics were shaken up by the arrival of new quantum theory. Heisenberg has said: Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown, we may have to learn a new meaning of the word "understanding." Much of everything that was known before became null and void overnight.

For example: The law of causality is no longer applied in quantum theory and the law of conservation of matter is no longer true for the elementary particles.

That is why, before studying quantum mechanics one must discard all pre-existing notions about the world and forget what was learned in large scale or Newtonian physics.

How did Heisenberg cope? Heisenberg admired Eastern philosophy and saw parallels between it and quantum mechanics. He stated that after having conversations with Rabindranath Tagore about Indian philosophy "some of the ideas that seemed so crazy suddenly made much more sense".

4 Applications of Einstein's Famous Equation E=mc²

E=mc² albert einstein equation applications physics world war

Just like electric and magnetic phenomena are two sides of the same coin, in similar way, matter and energy, according to Albert Einstein, are also equivalent.

Einstein said, "It followed from the special theory of relativity that mass and energy are different manifestations of the same thing, a somewhat unfamiliar conception for the average mind. Furthermore, the equation in which energy is equal to mass, multiplied by the square of the velocity of light, showed that very small amounts of mass may be converted into a very large amount of energy and vice versa."

In the Second World War, Einstein feared that Germans might develop an atomic weapon based on his groundbreaking discovery. Despite being a long-time pacifist, he wrote a letter to President of the United States, out of necessity, to urge him to develop the atomic bomb before the Germans.

America succeeded, the unfortunate bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened, the Great War came to a close but at Great Cost. Robert Oppenheimer, part of the Manhattan Project, quoted from Bhagavad Gita, "Now I am become death; the destroyer of worlds."

In 1948, Einstein regretted, "If I had foreseen Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would have torn up my formula of 1905," he said in an interview. But just how much energy is locked inside matter? Here's an example: shortly after Einstein's death in 1955 his brain was removed and weighed at 1.23 kilogram.

E=mc² albert einstein equation applications physics world war

That would equal 26,000 kilotons of TNT worth of energy. Compare this to the bomb which burned 70% of Hiroshima: it was only 15 kilotons of TNT. This means that an average human brain would have roughly 1,700 times more explosive energy than the bomb which destroyed an entire city!

No doubt Einstein was worried. But to everyone's surprise, despite having Heisenberg by their side, although his involvement in the war is disputed by some historians, the Germans were unable to complete the bomb.

On the other hand, nuclear arms race began between the United States and Soviet Union; a competition for supremacy in the world; which ultimately led to greater tension; a possibility that some eccentric politician might blow up the whole earth.

But apart from war, the equation is useful in other instances. For example, in a nuclear reaction, mass of the atoms that come out is less than mass of the atoms that go in. The difference of which shows up as heat and light.

This would make a good alternative to fossil fuels. Clean energy is the need of the planet because just think how long can we rely on fuel from the dead? Furthermore, space travel in the distant future may also depend on such power.

E=mc² albert einstein equation applications physics world war

Einstein's formula also explains why the crust of our planet is inherently warm. It is due to energy mass conversions occurring within radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium in earth's crust.

Uranium can be found almost everywhere: in rocks, soils, rivers, and oceans. It is in fact 40 times more common than silver in the crust. Thus, the built-in temperature of Earth crust, is directly related to E=mc².

Also the source of sunlight is mass energy conversion. The Sun is made up of 70% Hydrogen. In its core, where temperature is high enough, four hydrogen atoms fuse together to become a helium nucleus, which is slightly less massive than the four combining hydrogen nuclei. The lost mass was converted to light.

Without that sunlight, there'd be no life on earth. Without it, there is no growth in the plants hence no food; all the animals would ultimately starve to death. Hence, we owe our existence to E=mc². Thus, Einstein's little equation is a triumph of the power and simplicity of physics.

10 Examples of Physics From Everyday Life

law of inertia of motion

Not every student will grow up and study physics on a deeper level, but physics extends well into our daily life, describing the motion, forces and energy of ordinary experience. Therefore, it should be possible to illustrate to anyone the physics of everyday life, with examples of course.

Image formation

Have you noticed that when standing inside a room at night, you can often see your reflection in a pane of glass? In similar way, because there is much less light coming from the bottom of a lake, the surface of the lake will act like a mirror.

reflection of light

But an image can also be formed by refraction. A fish seen in the water will usually appear to be at a different depth than it actually is, due to the refraction of light rays as they travel from the water into the air.

refraction of light virtual image

Lastly, there exist phenomena which appear due to combination of reflection and refraction. For example, a rainbow is seen when light passes through water droplets hanging in the atmosphere. The light bends, or refracts, as it enters the droplet, and then reflects off the inside of the raindrop.

how rainbow forms after rain

Washing machine

The dryer of washing machine is a rapidly rotating container that applies centrifugal force to its contents. The centrifugal force acts in a direction away from the centre and hence can be used to throw the water molecules on the clothes radially outwards during the spin cycle of the washing machine.

Static electricity

When two objects that are not good electrical conductors are rubbed together, electrons from one of the objects rub off onto the other.

static electricity funny images animated

The more rubbing between two objects, the more static electricity build up and the larger the electrical charge.

Road safety

When brakes are applied to a moving car, the car and lower portions of the passengers attached to the car come to immediate stop, but their upper portions fall forwards, because of inertia. This is why seat belts as well as air bags are installed in the car.

inertia safety belts in car

Roller coaster

The first hill of the ride is always the highest one so that the car collects enough energy to go through all the elevations. As the car goes down, its potential energy decreases but kinetic energy increases. If added together at any part of the ride, the kinetic and potential energies of the car will equal the potential energy that the car had on the first hill.


When the figure skater draws her arms and a leg inward, she reduces her moment of inertia thus rotating at a faster angular speed. This is due to conservation of angular momentum.

angular momentum figure skating

Handle of the door

If you apply force close to the hinge of the door, the door will not open as it will not be able to rotate about the hinge. But, when you apply the same force farther away from the hinge, the torque will be larger. Hence, the door opens easily with less effort.

Falling down

Suppose you are climbing a tree, and suddenly you slip and fall down from the tree. Then, you may break a bone or two. But if same thing happens to a little ant, that is, if it falls down from height, it does not get hurt. Why is it so?

From ant’s point of view, the atmosphere is thick and viscous and its experience of falling from a height is similar to ours when we fall through water to the bottom of the pool. The air underneath the falling ant becomes like a large cushion of safety.


Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman explains why little drops of water are round in the following video.

Sound game

When a water bottle fills up, the air column or amount of air inside the bottle decreases. As a result, the pitch (or shrillness) of the sound will increase, as it is inversely proportional to the length of vibrating air column. Therefore, you can tell exactly when the bottle is full without even looking.

Summing up

It is hard to imagine of life without physics. Even though one may not be equipped with the kind of mathematics required to fully understand these physical phenomena, one can surely appreciate the fact that they are there. Lots of other examples are available and you just need the eye to recognize them.

Characteristics of Physical Law

Despite numerous limitations, we human beings are able enough to study as well as appreciate the grandeur of the universe. Our great journey of determining scientific laws began as we understood the regular repetitions of the day and night, the annual cycle of seasons, the eclipses, the tides, the volcanoes, the rainbow and so on.

What is scientific law?

A scientific law is verbal or mathematical explanation that describes some phenomenon of the natural world. For example, Newton's law of gravity, which states that every particle attracts every other particle in the universe with a force directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers. But the law itself does not explain why the phenomenon exists or what causes it: that is really the job of theory, in this case, Einstein's theory of general relativity.

The scientific law is factual and should not be confused with logical truth. For example, "boiling point of water is 100 degrees celsius" is a law whereas "every number has a double" is logical truth and not really a law.

Constant over space and time

The same laws which apply here on earth also apply to the rest of the universe. For example, Galileo's law of falling bodies was tested on the moon by astronaut David Scott in 1971.

This is simple and yet beautiful truth, that the laws of nature are universally valid. There are no laws of nature that hold just for the planet earth or the Andromeda Galaxy, for that matter.

In addition, the laws of nature do not change as time progresses. There is a joke which goes something like this, "Before Newton discovered gravity, all things could fly." That is so not the case; there are no laws of nature that hold just for the eighteenth century or just for the Mesozoic Era.

Same for animate and inanimate

The laws are same for living beings and for inanimate objects. There is no evidence yet that what goes on in living creatures is necessarily different, so far as the physical laws are concerned, from what goes on in non-living things.

For example, conservation of angular momentum is a fundamental law of nature. A rotating ballerina spins faster when drawing her arms in.

how are physical laws symmetrical?

Similarly, the earth and other planets revolving around the sun obey the law of conservation of angular momentum, which is why, when a planet is nearer to the Sun, the orbital speed increases and when it is farther away, it slows down.

Simple in nature

Eminent kiwi physicist Ernest Rutherford used to say, "it should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid." But even though the laws themselves are so simple, their implications are far and wide.

For example, Newton's third law of motion is simply, "for every action there is equal and opposite reaction", and yet it is noticeable in many instances of life such as in walking, swimming, recoiling of gun, and most importantly, rocket propulsion.

how are physical laws symmetrical?

Similarly, Newton's second law of motion is just, F=ma, but it made possible the industrial revolution. Steam engines, locomotives, factories, machines, all of it due to the mechanics set into motion by the second law of motion.

Same in uniform motion

If we have an experiment working in a certain way and then take the same apparatus, put it in a car, and move the whole car, plus all the relevant surroundings, at a uniform velocity in a straight line, then so far as the phenomena inside the car are concerned, there is no difference.

Unification of laws

Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell took a set of known experimental laws such as Faraday's Law, Ampere's Law and unified them into a symmetric coherent set of equations known as Maxwell's equations.

how are physical laws symmetrical?

Maxwell's equations are also laws just like the law of gravity. They govern the behavior of electric and magnetic fields. Also, light itself is an electromagnetic wave. Therefore, Maxwell's equations have in a way unified three separate phenomena, electricity, magnetism and optics, into one.

A similar type of unification occurred in the early part of the 20th century. The laws of conservation of energy and conservation of total mass were proven to be equivalent by German physicist Albert Einstein in a simple equation, E=mc^2.

These unifications are possible because the laws of physics are symmetrical in nature. Two or more distinctly appearing natural phenomena appear to be governed by just one simple law. Thus, one day, we may be able to find an ultimate law of physics that may explain everything.

Renowned American physicist Richard Feynman had famously said, "God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand."

Throughout history, man has credited god for this or that phenomena. For example, early Greeks believed that lightning was a weapon of Zeus. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you're taking away from god; you don't need god anymore.

Thus, "what one man calls god, another calls the laws of physics," or in other words, to have an understanding of the physical laws is in a way a liberation from all superstition.

Is gravity a theory or a law?

Is gravity a theory or a law?

Why is it called Newton's law of gravity and not Newton's theory? Is Einstein's theory of general relativity scientifically inferior to Newton's law? Since in our day-to-day usage, the law carries more weight than the word theory?

Questions like these are doing the rounds on the internet. So we see it fit to explain, once and for all, what scientific terminology is. Before studying science, you must know the meanings of such terms like: axiom, hypothesis, experiment, model, law and theory.

Luckily, this terminology is well incorporated in the method of science. So, let us first understand the scientific method with an example and then we will answer whether gravity is a theory or a law. You will be surprised.

It is observed that bees are attracted to flowers. This statement is taken to be true to serve as a premise or starting point for further reasoning and arguments. This is called an axiom.


Then, a natural question arises. Why are bees attracted to flowers? This is the first step of the scientific method. An observation is followed up by a question. Like, on one summer day, Isaac Newton had questioned the fall of an apple.

One may guess that bees are attracted by the color of flowers. Another person may say that bees are attracted by the nectar inside flowers.

All guesses are called hypotheses.

A scientific hypothesis can be tested in laboratory with the help of an experiment. First, bees are let inside a glass chamber containing artificial flowers. Second, bees are let inside another glass chamber containing real flowers. Further observations are noted down.

example of scientific method

It is observed that bees are attracted to artificial flowers, they sit on them briefly, then fly away. Thus, the first hypothesis stands true as bees are indeed attracted by the color. In the second set-up, bees sit on real flowers and remain there for long. So, the second hypothesis is also true.

After hypotheses have been tested, it is time to formulate laws, theories or conclusions on basis of the result. In our case, we come to the simple conclusion: "bees are attracted to flowers due to both color and nectar."

A law, on the other hand, is a formula. Like, Newton's law of universal gravitation is used to calculate the "magnitude" of the gravitational force between two objects of mass separated by a given distance.

Is gravity a theory or a law?
Newton's law

Newton's law is also used in a model so as to mimic remote physical phenomena locally, say on one's computer, such as sky-diving or revolution of Moon around Earth. Thus, a model is generally a simulation. But Newton's law does not attempt to explain how or why gravity works.

In science, theory holds a special place. It is a well-substantiated explanation of the natural world that can incorporate all facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses. So, Einstein's theory of general relativity explains "why" things fall.

While laws rarely change, theories get modified whenever new evidence is discovered. Einstein published his version of the theory in 1915 and since then the theory has adapted as new technologies and new evidence have expanded our view of the universe.

Is gravity a theory or a law?
Is gravity a theory or a law?

So, is gravity a theory or a law? Well, first of all, it is an always acting force that one can feel. Second, it is both a theory and a law. The law of gravity calculates the amount of attraction while the theory describes why objects attract each other in the first place.

You have now an understanding of terms such as axiom, hypothesis, experiment, law, model and theory, by our use of the scientific method. Whenever you encounter a phrase like "it is just a theory" from the other party, you will know where they lack in their understanding.

Origin of Life on Earth According To Science

Origin of life on earth

Man has always wondered how he came into existence, who created him, and why he was created. Questions of such nature have been asked throughout human history. Every ancient thinker, philosopher or prophet, has tried to give some answer to this question and suggest some mechanism for the birth of life.

Man is but a small part of life. In reality, there is a vast variety of creatures lingering around us. How did they come into existence? Are we related to them in any manner whatsoever? This article proposes to take you back to a distant past when there was no life on our planet and helps you imagine how life could have originated on it.


According to an ancient Greek idea, life exists throughout the universe. It is distributed to different planets in small units through space dust, meteoroids, asteroids or comets. It was assumed that under favourable conditions of temperature and moisture, these units of life would come alive and give birth to the initial living beings.

origin of life on earth

Panspermia was first mentioned in the writings of the 5th century BC Greek philosopher Anaxagoras. Despite being old, the idea is quite witty, isn't it? It has assumed a more scientific form in the recent years thanks to the contributions of astronomers Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe.

It is a very well known fact that the cosmic dust is present throughout space. Hoyle and Wickramasinghe proposed in 1974 the hypothesis that most of the dust in the interstellar space has to be largely organic, for life to spread, which Wickramasinghe later proved to be correct.

But Panspermia assumes that there is a universal storehouse of life throughout space and thus indeed avoids answering the question as to how life anywhere originated in the first place.

Divine Creation

One belief, common among the people of all cultures, is that all the different forms of life including human beings were suddenly created by a divine order about 10,000 years ago. These large number of creatures have always been the same and will last without change from one generation to another, until the end of the world.

Such a theory of creation is unreasonable because fossils of plants and animals suggest that life is of much older origin. In fact, some researches show that life on Earth existed even 3.5 billion years ago. There are very many reasons why this particular idea is untrue. It is therefore surprising as to why people may still hold on to this belief system.

Spontaneous Generation

The theory known as spontaneous generation held that complex, living organisms could come into existence from inanimate objects. Mice might spontaneously appear in stored grain or maggots could spontaneously appear in meat. It was synthesized by the Greek philosopher and biologist Aristotle.


According to Aristotle, animals and plants come into existence in earth and in liquid because there is water in earth, and air in water, and in all air is vital heat so that in a sense all things are full of soul. Therefore, living things form quickly whenever this air and vital heat are enclosed in anything.

Aristotle's influence was so large and powerful that his construct of spontaneous generation remained unchallenged for more than two thousand years. According to Aristotle it was a readily observable truth. But, in 1668, Italian biologist Franceso Redi proved that no maggots appeared in meat when flies were prevented from laying eggs.

origin of life on earth
There is no spontaneous generation

Spontaneous generation is no longer debatable among biologists. By the middle of the 19th century, experiments by Louis Pasteur and others refuted the traditional theory of spontaneous generation and supported biogenesis, the idea that only life begets life.

Chemical Evolution

The life as we know it is based on carbon containing molecules. Therefore, Soviet biochemist, Oparin, and British biologist, Haldane, proposed that life could have arisen from simple organic molecules. In other words, to understand the origin of life, one must have a knowledge of the organic molecules on earth.

The early Earth was a hot ball of fire. Sources of energy such as cosmic rays, UV radiation, electrical discharges from lightning and heat from volcanoes, were readily available. Therefore, the earth acted like a big factory producing thousands of compounds a day. This was a state of agitation.

early earth with warm waters

In these severe conditions, oxygen, could not remain as free oxygen. It was combined with other elements in compounds such as Water and Limestone. Compounds of carbon and hydrogen, such as methane, were also formed. Nitrogen and hydrogen combined to form ammonia. These compounds are today called organic compounds.

With the passage of time, the earth had started cooling down. As it cooled sufficiently, prolonged rains were caused due to condensation of steam. The rains began accumulating in the depressions on the earth and so the oceans were formed. The water was warm and soup-like containing various kinds of organic molecules in abundance.

organic molecules

Interaction between these compounds in the warm waters resulted in the formation of yet more compounds, which among other things also contained amino acids having a composition of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen and oxygen. These amino acids combined with one another in large numbers to form proteins, which are the building blocks of life.

Miller-Urey Experiment

In discussing events which must have happened billions of years ago, there is a certain amount of guess work and uncertainty involved. But the reasoning has to conform to a good deal of available evidence as well as to the basic laws of physical sciences.

The above idea could be tested by recreating the proposed conditions of the early earth in a laboratory.

In the year 1952, American biochemists Stanley Miller and Harold Urey did exactly the same thing but on a very small scale. They subjected a gaseous mixture of methane, ammonia, water vapour and hydrogen in a closed flask at 80 degree Celsius to electric sparking, for a week.

origin of life on earth

When examined a week later, the arrangement was found to have formed simple amino acids in the bottom, which are essential for the formation of proteins. Miller and Urey had shown that several organic compounds could be formed spontaneously by simulating the conditions of earth's early atmosphere, as hypothesized by Oparin and Haldane.

Elements of life, produced by man, in laboratory.

The scientific community worldwide was largely impressed by this accomplishment. In fact, three years after the success of Miller's experiment, American physicist Richard Feynman wrote a poem, titled, an atom in the universe, celebrating man's knowledge of the origin of life on earth.

Miller continued his research until his death in 2007. He not only succeeded in synthesising more and more varieties of amino acids, but also produced a wide variety of inorganic and organic compounds vital for cellular construction and metabolism. We salute the efforts of such a scientist who devoted his life studying the most important question known to man.
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