Into the Heart of Matter

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Enter the Quantum
The "stuff" of the universe - matter and energy - is not continuously subdividable but comes in discrete "chunks." This fundamental graininess of the universe has profound implications for the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scales.
Molecules and Solids
See how atoms join to make molecules and solids, and how this leads to the quantum effects that underlie semiconductor electronics. Also probe the behavior of matter in ultradense white dwarfs and neutron stars, and learn how a quantum-mechanical pairing of electrons at low temperatures produces superconductivity.
Particle or Wave?
In 1923, Louis de Broglie proposed that, like light photons, particles of matter might also display wave properties. The wave nature of smaller particles such as electrons is quite visible and leads to many unusual phenomena, including quantum tunneling mentioned in Lecture 1.
The Atomic Nucleus
In the first of two episodes on nuclear physics, study the atomic nucleus, which consists of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons, held together by the strong nuclear force. Many combinations of protons and neutrons are unstable; such nuclei are radioactive and decay with characteristic half lives.
Quantum Field Theory
Toss out the textbook image of electrons circling an atom's nucleus. This lecture explores the big twist of quantum field theory: The world isn't really made of particles. They're fascinating and necessary figments of quantum mechanics created by observing the fields that fill every inch of the universe, and grasping…
The Structure of Atoms and Molecules
Episode 4 of The Nature of Matter
Understand atomic and molecular structure with the help of a simple analogy: the rooms of a house and the collection of houses in a city. See how the electrons of an atom occupy shells, subshells, and orbitals, which give atoms and molecules their distinctive properties.
A New Theory of Matter
Episode 3 of The Nature of Matter
Discover how the idea that light comes in discrete packets called "quanta" led to a startling new theory of matter: quantum mechanics. One prediction is that matter, like light, behaves as both a particle and a wave, a property observed in subatomic particles such as electrons.
The Spooky Universe
Did you know that electrons have never actually been observed by scientists to this day? Or that quarks can only be studied in pairs? Or that as you travel faster or find yourself in a higher gravity, time ticks more slowly for you? Delve into these and other mind-warping facts…
Special Relativity
Discover the startling consequences of Einstein's principle of relativity: that the laws of physics are the same for all observers in uniform motion. One result is that the speed of light is the same for all observers, no matter what their relative motion: an idea that overturns the concept of…
Atoms
Drawing on what you now know about quantum mechanics, analyze how atoms work, discovering that the electron is not a point particle but behaves like a probability cloud. Investigate the exclusion principle, and learn how quantum mechanics explains the periodic table of elements and the principle behind lasers.
Faster than Light? Past, Future, and Elsewhere
Relativity implies that the time order of events can be different in different reference frames. Does this wreak havoc with cause and effect? Finally, why is it that nothing can go faster than light?
A Problem of Gravity
Historically, the path to general relativity followed Einstein's attempt to incorporate gravity into relativity theory, which led to his understanding of gravity not as a force, but as a local manifestation of geometry in curved spacetime.