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The classical physics of Newton is in total accord with our 'everyday experience' of the world - that's why you don't have to be a physicist to play snooker. Classical ideas extend up to phenomena... on the scale of the solar system, yet they break down at the scale of the atom. Graham Farmelo takes these ideas and puts our 'everyday world' into perspective on a conceptual map, which shows size and speed over a wide range. Our experience is based upon a small region and we should not be surprised to find that common-sense does not apply everywhere on the map. Our only sure guide is experiment. After demonstrating the schizophrenic nature of electrons, John Walters and Graham Farmelo lead on to the De Broglie formula linking wave and particle behaviour for all particles. John Walters tries to observe a wavelike behaviour for billiard balls, only to conclude that it is masked by the extremely small value of Planck's constant, h. Electrons deviate from billiard ball behaviour in other ways - the outcome of an experiment with a single electron is not always predictable, putting experimenters in much the same position as a roulette player. This idea is quantified using the wave-packet concept which leads to the Heisenberg Uncertain Principle. Again, John Walters shows how the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is totally masked on a snooker table by the small value of h. After pointing ahead to the need for a relativistic form of quantum mechanics, the programme ends with a warning - beware of preconceived ideas.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: S271, Discovering physics
Item code: S271; 14
First transmission date: 01-09-1982
Published: 1982
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:00
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Producer: John Stratford
Contributors: Graham Farmelo; John Walters
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Billiard balls; De Broglie; Electrons; Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle; Planck's constant; Quantum mechanics; Wave/particle behaviour
Master spool number: HOU3845
Production number: FOUS235X
Videofinder number: 1793
Available to public: no