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Unit 5: Atomic and Nuclear Physics

spectra neon

     Although the success of Newtonian determinism is as clear as any scientific paradigm in the history of our planet (for example, just think about all the machines you use in any one and elevators etc.), it turns out that the ideas of Isaac Newton were not able to explain the results of certain important experiments conducted in the late 1800's and early 1900's.  For example, the atomic spectra (seen above) of a hydrogen discharge tube viewed through a diffraction grating is not explainable using classical physics. In this unit we will study the "quantum" nature of the subatomic realm, which does allow us to understand these phenomena, and see that we might need to re-examine the very nature of our world in light of what science has shown us about the smallest parts of the universe.

Suggested timeframe: 4 weeks

Big Ideas:
•Physical systems (that may have internal structure) and objects (that do not have internal structure) can be characterized by certain properties.
•The concept of force can be used to describe the interactions between objects in systems or between systems themselves.
•Systems can change due to interactions with other systems.
•Laws of conservation of certain properties of systems restrict the manner in which systems can change due to interactions.
•Energy and momentum can be transferred through wave phenomena without mass transfer.
•Insight into both the behavior of complex systems and the interpretation of quantum mechanical systems is gained by using the mathematics of probability.

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