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By James Jeans

This is often the whole textual content of James Jeans's Rouse Ball Lecture given in 1925 at Cambridge college, and surveys the sphere of atomic and subatomic physics within the early days of quantum mechanics, with a quick historic point of view on size.

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Extra resources for Atomicity and Quanta

Example text

In other words, if a field vary ever so slightly, the truly electrostatic part is of only infinitesimal intensity. The answer to this objection is, I think, as follows. If we are going to take the whole of time within our purview, we must also take the whole of space, and when this is done, no electron can be regarded as strictly free. Either we may limit ourselves to a small region in space and time, in which we can have both free electrons and an electrostatic field of finite intensity, or we can survey the whole of space and time, in which case no electron is strictly free and our theorem becomes valueless.

According to the model we have just constructed for the explanation of the photoelectric effect in terms of the classical laws, the periods of motion in the absorbing and emitting atoms are the same, and all space is filled with radiation of precisely these periods. We can describe the action of the model by saying that one atom emits radiation of the same periods as its own motions, while the other atom absorbs this radiation by resonance. But in Nature it is only for radiations of very low frequency that any period in the atom coincides with that of the radiation which it emits or absorbs.

When the light of a star passes through a telescope and impresses an image on a photographic plate, this image is not confined to a single molecule or to a close cluster of molecules as it would be if individual quanta left their marks like bullets on a target. An elaborate and extensive diffraction pattern is formed; the intensity of the pattern depends on the number of quanta, but its design depends on the diameter and also on the shape of the object-glass. Moreover the design does not bear any resemblance whatever to the "trial and error" design which is observed on a target battered by bullets.

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