The Nature of Physical Theory: A Study in Theory of Knowledge

By Victor F. Lenzen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
SYMBOLIC QUANTUM MECHANICS

1. INTRODUCTION

THE classical quantum theory was a microscopic theory based upon the concepts of space, time and causality. Thus in the Bohr theory of the atom electrons are assumed to revolve in orbits around a positive nucleus in accordance with determinate laws. The classical quantum theory was further based upon an unsystematic union of classical and quantum principles. The state of an atomic system was described in terms of classical quantities such as the coordinates and momenta of an electron at a given time. The quantum theory introduced the notion of stationary states of motion; motion in the stationary states is determined by classical dynamics subject to the restrictions imposed by the quantum conditions. While the atom is in a stationary state there is, contrary to classical electrodynamics, no emission or absorption of radiation; radiation is emitted or absorbed during a transition between stationary states, and the frequency is determined by the frequency condition. The classical quantum theory of radiation did not supply a basis for the intensity, phase, and state of polarization of the radiation, but in this respect the theory was supplemented by classical methods in accordance with the correspondence principle. Thus the classical quantum theory was a system based upon inconsistent principles and points of view. Moreover, apart from the unsatisfactory nature of the foundations, the classical theory was open to the criticism that it had not succeeded in giving a satisfactory theory beyond the hydrogen atom; thus there was need of a quantum theory based upon a new point of view. The new quantum theory was initiated by Heisenberg in 1925.

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