Quantum Physics

Black Bodies and Quantum Cats: Tales of Pure Genius and Mad by JENNIFER OUELLETTE

By JENNIFER OUELLETTE

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He built a kite out of two strips of cedar nailed together in the shape of a cross or X, with a large silk handkerchief 46 BLACK BODIES AND QUANTUM CATS forming the body, since silk could withstand the wet and wind of a thunderstorm. He attached a key to the long silk string dangling from the kite; the other end of the silk string was attached to a Leyden jar by a thin metal wire. He stood under a shed roof to ensure that he was holding a dry portion of the kite string (if it got wet, it would be conductive).

He sold instruments to the king of Spain,the Russian court,and the Austrian emperor. On the night of March 13,1781, Herschel observed an unusual disk-shape object, which he initially thought was a comet. For the next few months he kept an eye on the object’s movements, and he discovered that the object’s orbit was nearly circular and lay well beyond the orbit of the planet Saturn. He concluded that it was a planet, which he called Georgium sidus (“George’s star”) in honor of the English king. Fortunately, other astronomers intervened and changed the name to the far more mellifluous Uranus, after the mythological god of the skies.

The light is then deflected through the side of the tube to the eyepiece, forming an image. The brighter light made the reflecting telescope much more useful for observing faint, deep-sky objects like galaxies and nebulae. The nature of the latter was a subject of much speculation among astronomers, because nebulae appeared to be little more than clouds of gas and dust in interstellar space. When he was in his early twenties, Herschel emigrated to England, where he made a comfortable living as a musician and chorister.

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