Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Google Doodle, Niels Bohr's 127th Birthday

I promised myself that I was getting out of the Google Doodle business.  At one time I felt the need to post on every Doodle resulting in some posts about people or things for which I had no passion.  A post on a Doodle now is a something of a wave / particle function of a blurred probability which will collapse into a firm reality when the reader observes my blog.  It is a Schrödinger's post of indeterminacy (loosely based on Schrödinger's cat) of unknown probability.  
Niels Bohr 1885-1962

The long and short of it is the probability of my posting is directly proportional to the coolness of the Doodle, the person or thing it commemorates and inversely proportional to the complexity of the subject and my laziness.  So with this particular Doodle, we have a really cool Doodle for one of my scientific heroes, on an extremely complex subject with a typical level of laziness.  This is going to result in a short post pretty much describing the doodle, and you, dear reader, can spend the rest of the day sorting through Niels Bohr's many accomplishments and theories on Wikipedia which have confused smarter people than me.  

Niels Bohr was one of the principal authors of the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics and the creator of the Bohr model of the atom.  He won the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in quantum theory.  Later he worked on the Manhattan Project for the creation of the atomic bomb.  Bohr's moral beliefs and his desire to share nuclear technology with the scientific community and the Soviets did not set well with Roosevelt or  Churchill. 

Helium Atom

The Doodle depicts a spooky and foggy looking Google with a stylized Bohr / Rutherford model atom for the first O.  I believe the foggy Google is somewhat representative of a cloud chamber.  A cloud chamber is used to delineate particle tracks resulting from radioactive decay or nuclear collisions.    The model of the atom is not specifically a Bohr model which would not be particularly recognizable by the public but rather a more generic stylized version of both the Bohr and Rutherford models done in the Google colors of red, yellow, green, and blue.  The widespread use of this symbol in the shields of various nuclear agencies, military heraldry,  and corporate logos has placed it in the public's imagination of what an atom looks like.  The truth is closer to the image at the left.  The positive nucleus of protons and neutrons is surrounded by a cloud of probability for the negatively charged electrons located in orbits as indicated by the murky black and gray sphere.  

The specific orbits or shells are labeled with n=1 which are the principal quantum numbers of the shell, (good luck with that--the complexity factor way exceeding the laziness factor in my mind).  The red squiggly depicts a photon being emitted from an electron jumping, the famous quantum leap,  from shell 3 to shell 2.  The formula states that the change in energy is equal to Planck's constant (h) times the frequency(v) of the photon.  Photons are packets (quanta) of electromagnetic radiation such as radio waves, heat, visible light, x-ray or gamma rays.  The energy of the photon is determined by its frequency which is inversely proportional to its wavelength.  The difference between harmless visible light and the penetrating ionizing radiation such as the x-ray is that the x-ray has a much higher frequency and shorter wavelength.  Those numbers on your radio dial are frequencies of the radio waves and the colors that your eye respond to is the various frequencies of visible light. 
Big Al Einstein and Niels Bohr
at the 1930 Solvay Conference

If you find some of Bohr's contentions in the Copenhagen Interpretation hard to believe, you are not alone.  Big Al Einstein had a lot of problems with the indeterminacy of the theory and said of it:

"Quantum mechanics is very impressive. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory yields a lot, but it hardly brings us any closer to the secret of the Old One. In any case I am convinced that He doesn't play dice." - Albert Einstein  

This is the basis of the famous God does not throw dice quote.  Bohr was no slouch though and not about to put up with any rhetorical nonsense from his life long friend.  To Big Al's contention that God was not a gambler, Bohr replied:

"Nor is it our business to prescribe to God how He should run the world." 

Image Credits:

Google Doodle:  Google, Doodles Finder

Niels Bohr:  Wikipedia, Niels Bohr

Helium Atom: Wikipedia, Atom

Einstein and Bohr: Instituut-Lorentz, Lorentz & the Solvay conferences