Quantum Physics and the Theory of Relativity

Written by christine dagnelli
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Quantum Physics and the Theory of Relativity
Newton's Cradle is physics in motion, showing the conversion of momentum to energy. (newton's cradle 03 image by Maik Blume from Fotolia.com)

Quantum physics and the theory of relativity are components of theoretical physics that model space, time, and many laws of the universe. Quantum, which means "how great or how much" in Latin, refers to proton, electrons, and other particles that make up matter and antimatter.


Einstein's theory of relativity superseded Newton's theory of mechanics and greatly enhanced comprehension of the cosmos and the relations among matter, space, and time. Whereas relativity tends to deal with extremely large phenomena in the universe, quantum physics studies the behaviour of particles and the wavelike properties of energy and matter. It incorporates phenomena that classical physics cannot explain in the areas of wave-particle duality, quantum indeterminacy, and quantum entanglement.

History of Relativity

Einstein introduced the theory of special relativity, which describes the structure of spacetime, in a paper he published in 1905, "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies." The theory agreed with experimental observations in ways classical mechanics had not. Einstein then developed the general theory of relativity, a theory of gravitation, between 1907 and 1915. According to this theory space is curved; experimental data supports this conclusion.

History of Quantum Physics

Quantum physics began in 1838 with studies by the scientist Michael Faraday, and by the 1920s it had become the foundation for atomic physics. Einstein postulated light could be absorbed in matter, which led to the discovery of light having its own particles, known as photons. Numerous scientists and mathematicians have contributed to the development of quantum physics, such as Max Planck, who studied electromagnetic energy waves, Werner Heisenberg, who formulated the uncertainty principle, and Erwin Schrödinger, famous for his Schrödinger's cat experiment, in which two realities can exists simultaneously. Einstein famously rejected certain aspects of quantum physics, even though he contributed much to the field.

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