The creation of quantum mechanics is one of the most dramatic developments in the physics of the 20th century. After the period 1900–1924, during which the Law of Black Body Radiation, wave particle duality for light and for matter, the general quantisation of energy and stability of matter and the laws of spectroscopy had begun to be understood, the mathematical structure of quantum mechanics was discovered amazingly rapidly in just under two years, 1925–1927. On the other hand, the physical interpretation and meaning of this structure required an enormous effort, in which the uncertainty and complementarity principles, the Born probability interpretation and rule and the wave function collapse idea, all played important roles. While quantum mechanics has all along been amazingly successful in numerous applications, many puzzling questions about interpretation remain and continue to be pursued till today, though the focus has shifted from wave particle duality to entanglement and its signatures and consequences. This article gives an impressionistic account of these developments, accompanied by comments on the origins of human intuition and the meaning of human understanding of nature .
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References and footnotes
A recent general article in this journal — ‘The Development of Quantum Mechanics — A Story of People, Places and Philosophies’ by Arvind, Kavita Dorai, Subhash Chaturvedi and N. Mukunda, Resonance, Journal of Science Education, Vol.23, No.10, pp. 1077–1100, 2018 gives a more detailed account of the way quantum mechanics developed. It also describes some of the landmark experiments which played important roles in this process — those concerned with black body radiation, the photoelectric effect, the diffraction of electrons, and the experimental validation of Bohr’s atomic model. The present shorter article is impressionistic in style and aimed at a wider non-specialist audience.
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This article is based on a Special Lecture at the 30th Mid Year Meeting of Indian Academy of Sciences at Bangalore on June 28, 2019. The author thanks Professor P P Majumdar, President of the Academy, for the invitation to give this lecture.
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Mukunda, N. The Marvel and the Mystery of Quantum Mechanics — Some Reflections. Reson 25, 585–594 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12045-020-0971-5