“…those who are not shocked when they first
come across quantum theory cannot possibly
have understood it.”
— Niels Bohr
So it’s high time for me to get my hands dirty in the bizarre world of quantum mechanics. The basics are essentially revision for me, being as I studied it when I was at Uni the first time round. This time, though, I have added vigour in my learning, mainly because without knowing the quantum mechanics behind them, I can’t hope to understand stellar spectra.
The good news is that it all seems relatively straightforward. Electrons and nuclei behave in certain ways, and interactions with other particles (like photons, for instance) cause certain effects. Basically, interactions transfer energy. That energy causes particles (eg: electrons) to ‘jump’ to a higher energy level. In turn, when they fall back down, they emit the same quanta of energy back out again. This, in a nutshell, is why objects absorb and emit light. The energy of that jump corresponds to the colour of light that gets absorbed or emitted. Just think about that the next time you look at anything brightly coloured. It’s really quite amazing.
I know what it does. Now I just need to brush up on why it works…