A new way of thinking

A new approach was required to the understanding of fundamental physical processes. To quote Erwin Schrodinger (1887—1961): 'the task was, not so much to see what no one yet

The electron is uncertain about the future!

that the electron makes the jump spontaneously, quite independently of how long it has been in a given state. Gone was the Newtonian order of determinism. A new philosophy was emerging. The laws governing the atom did not

has seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought, about that which everyone sees'.

Old, well-established habits die hard, and many physicists found it difficult to come to terms with the new ideas. As late as 1916, Schrodinger himself was reportedly led to exclaim: 'If one has to stick to this quantum jumping, then I regret ever to have been involved in this thing'. To which Bohr replied: 'But we others are very grateful to you that you were, since your work did so much to promote this theory.'

There were other conceptual problems to be solved. It was clear that the model of the atom could not be taken literally. It should, rather, be treated as a mathematical representation, which could be used to represent atomic properties and possibly make predictions. Even while the atom is stable, the position of the electron is indeterminate. It was impossible to actually 'see' an orbiting electron. Perhaps a better mental picture was that of an 'electron cloud' around the nucleus representing a ring within which the electron should be!

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