Atomicity and Quanta by James Jeans

By James Jeans

This can be the total textual content of James Jeans's Rouse Ball Lecture given in 1925 at Cambridge college, and surveys the sphere of atomic and subatomic physics within the early days of quantum mechanics, with a short historic viewpoint on dimension.

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This latter provides just the "something extra" which, as we have already seen, must be added to a system of electric charges before they can function as an atom. It hardly seems possible that the model we have just imagined can present us with the true picture of an atom. There is the obvious objection that the electromagnetic field in which we have supposed the electric charges to be immersed not only extends to infinity but is of infinite energy. Not only so, but the model provides no explanation of the atomicity which spectroscopy shews to exist in the angular momenta, radii and eccentricities of atomic orbits.

As it appears to be equally necessary to retain the fundamental quantum equation Ez — El = hv, it becomes of primary importance to investigate how far this equation is compatible with the undulatory theory of light. In fields, if any, in which the two become incompatible, we must limit the application of one or the other. Before discussing this question at length, it may be well to remark that it only forms part of a wider problem. Any solution of the problem of the nature of radiation and of its interaction with matter must, I think, conform to the four following general principles: I.

When the light of a star passes through a telescope and impresses an image on a photographic plate, this image is not confined to a single molecule or to a close cluster of molecules as it would be if individual quanta left their marks like bullets on a target. An elaborate and extensive diffraction pattern is formed; the intensity of the pattern depends on the number of quanta, but its design depends on the diameter and also on the shape of the object-glass. Moreover the design does not bear any resemblance whatever to the "trial and error" design which is observed on a target battered by bullets.

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