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 Astronomy and Cosmology
 Astronomy and Cosmology


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Astronomy and Cosmology
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Observation of the behavior of elementary particles

Quantum mechanics deals with the behavior of fundamental particles, which cannot be explained under classical Newtonian physics. Together with the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics comprises an extremely important approach to understanding the universe. All matter is composed of atoms. However, it is postulated that there exist even smaller, subatomic particles which make up atoms. Observation of the behavior of these atoms reveals a number of strange phenomena. For example, observation of the mass of certain particles indicates perfect integers of 1, 2 and 3. In terms of classical physics, this would be inconceivable; for example, if one were to measure the mass of random drops of rainfall, these would have odd values, such as 1.5 g or 2.14 g. If such raindrops where reduced in size 10 billion or 100 billion times and their mass was in integers, then the smallest value among these would be the "quantum".

Difficulty in Quantifying an Unquantifiable Region

In the case of quantum mechanics, whether the mass of a fundamental particle is 1, 2 or 3 can only be determined by probability. Furthermore, existence depends on observation. Electrons move around the nucleus of an atom. However, when observing an electron there are two factors: location and quantity of motion. When focusing on location, the quantity of movement is not known, and vice versa -- when focusing on quantity of movement, the location is not known. In other words, location and quantity of motion cannot be measured simultaneously. Measurement of this area of uncertainty was expressed in terms of theorem by the German Werner Heisenberg, et. al., leading to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics.

With the emergence of the "big bang" theory, a new close up on quantum mechanics

With the emergence of the "big bang" theory, quantum mechanics moved to the forefront in terms of an approach to understanding the universe. When moving back in time to examine the beginning of the universe, inevitably one bumps up against the mystery of the formation and behavior of matter at the fundamental particle level. This implies questions such as where did the energy for electrons, photons and quarks come from, and what occurred under conditions of infinite temperature and density. Thus, the study of quantum mechanics is the same as exploring the very limits of the universe.
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