Written by Sameran Banerjee

Is there contention or harmony between the macroscopic and microscopic world?

It was during the 1800s when it was discovered that matter is not macroscopic but consists of something within, a microscopic structure. These little structures came to be known as Atoms, meaning ‘indivisible matter’ in Greek.

In 1897, J. J. Thomson was credited for disproving the early myth and discovering something within atoms – the electron. This revolutionary discovery was made by the simple studies and experimental set up of Cathode Ray Tube ( CR Tube ). The question then was to design this structure of atom which took a decade or so. Many models were put forward, but mainly credited is the Plum-Pudding model of the atom by Thomson.

Later, through the well known Gold Foil Experiment, Rutherford was able to define a proper structure regarding the distribution of electrons around a heavy, highly dense, positively charged “ Lump” that came to be known as the Nucleus. 

It then became important to understand the behaviour and the interaction of atoms, as they are solely responsible for everything we see. A few years later, it was realised that the then-known elements should possess a particular order in terms of mass. They must also have other properties organizing them into a systematic arrangement, now broadly known as the periodic table.

As new elements continued to be discovered, it became crucial for scientists to study every property of the elements and to fit it within the table. This proved tedious but fruitful.

So shouldn’t the puzzle have been over once they were placed in a systematic way? No, because not all elements followed a particular ‘Rule’. Many had deviations, less or more, and many were unpredicted. It then became important to systematically study the interior of an atom itself. This was the beginning of the modern revolution.

The birth of Quantum Mechanics is a mixture of various observations. Right from the 16th century, when Newton explained the particle nature of Light, the theories of luminiferous ether (which does not exist, as of now), to the photoelectric effect by Einstein and the quantization of energy by Max Planck. Of course, Erwin Schrodinger is another eminent figure who contributed the maximum in the quantum domain. These intellectuals proved that Nature isn’t all that we observe. It is eccentric; a macroscopic and microscopic world in equal measure.

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