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Monday, January 9, 2012

Electrons & Stuff

I've been reading about quantum mechanics, and a couple of things have occurred to me.
  • Heisenberg's uncertainty principle isn't all that complicated. Basically, all it says is that we don't have tools accurate enough to measure stuff that small that accurately. It's like trying to measure a basketball with a baseball bat. All you can say is that the ball is smaller than the bat is long. You could eyeball it, and say the diameter of the  basketball is maybe only a third of the length of the bat, but the Staff Sergeant recording your measurements is only going to write down whether it is (A) as big as the bat, or (B) not as big as the bat. Your eyeball guesstimates aren't worth s**t.
  • Heat, or temperature, is a reflection of how fast the atoms of your sample are vibrating. Except all things give off heat in the form of infrared radiation. Infrared radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation, and that comes from electrons changing energy levels. So we have two different things related to heat: (A) the velocity of the atoms themselves, and (B) the energy level of the electrons attached to those atoms. The way I figure it, the vibrating atoms must bang into each other, and when they do, some electrons must get knocked into higher energy levels. Eventually they will get tired of being so excited and will emit a photon of infrared radiation and fall back to their normal or previous level. I think I am missing something here.
  • Electrons orbiting the nucleus of their atom are traveling at some ridiculously high speed, a sizable fraction of the speed of light, if memory serves. Doesn't matter. This velocity doesn't change if the temperature of the atom, i.e. the atom's velocity changes. It might go up a bit if the energy state of the electron goes up, or maybe not. Maybe the electron's velocity is always the same. Have to check. In any case, heating or cooling an atom does not change the velocity of the electron. Cooling an atom will cause the velocity of the atom to decrease, but not the velocity of the electron around the nucleus. The electrons orbiting a room temperature atom will have the same velocity as the electrons orbiting an atom at a temperature approaching absolute zero. That's weird. It's like the engine of a Corvette running at 9,000 RPM while it is sitting in the parking lot.
  • It's common to say that white light is made of light of all frequencies, but that cannot be because light does not come in all frequencies. Each photon has a specific frequency. When an electron drops from a higher energy state to a lower one, it gives off a photon or energy. The higher state, the lower state, and the kind of atom all figure in giving that photon a particular frequency. Since there are only about a hundred different kinds of atoms, with an average of 50 or electrons, and we seem to have an uncounted number of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation, there must be about a jillion different energy states for each kind of atom.
  • Radio waves are at a lower frequency than infrared, and infrared waves are of lower frequency than light. Heating an object will cause it to give off heat, and if you heat it more (think of a bar of steel subjected to a welding torch, or the filament of light bulb, or the flame of a match for that matter), it gives off light. This makes me think cooler objects, say room temperature, or even arctic temperatures, must be giving off radio waves. Incoherent, unfocused, low energy, but RF energy none-the-less.

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