The Big and the Small

Modern Physics is an origin story of extremes. Extreme speed. Extreme smallness. It was in these corners of reality that old notions found their limits and new ideas could rise to solve mysteries.

A hot cup of coffee and a cold cup of ice water, observed over hours, teach us about some of the things heat energy does, and in response to that, what temperature does. But what IS temperature? Figuring that out leads us down one of the many roads to the quantum universe.

Seeing the Quantum Universe

It never fails. An optical recording disc, with its numerous small grooves, causes light from a hydrogen discharge tube to spread out in a rainbow. Except this rainbow is incomplete, with only a red, a cyan, a blue, and a violet line. Where are all the other colors? Hydrogen cannot make them. The electron in its orbit around the proton is constrained like a standing wave on a guitar string. Only certain frequencies of its orbit are allowed. Only certain kinds of light can emerge.

The real quantum realm, laid bare with plastic and light and electricity.