7. Particles, Waves, and     Paradoxes   Previous PageNext Page

The theory that "saved" physics was quantum mechanics, from which an entirely new picture of the nature of atoms and of matte developed in the first quarter of this century. In quantum mechanic matter became only a special, condensed form of energy. The hard billiard-ball atoms changed to standing waves like waves in a vibrating violin string.

The question of whether atoms really were particles or waves was rejected with a denial that the question had any meaning at the atomic level. The change was a profound philosophical wrench for most scientists. Although the really good physicists adopted quantum mechanics because it explained so many things that classical mechanics did not, the average nonscientist neither believed in nor even thought much about quantum physics until the atomic bomb burst over Japan in 1945.

If the twilight world of half-waves, half-particles could produce something as awesome as an atomic bomb, then it must be real and not just an elegant mathematical theory that physicists use to tie their data together.

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