Some light physics in the afternoon

Last week, the entire admissions office ventured forth as a group from our home office to one of the classroom buildings. The occasion? A chance to join other members of the faculty and staff to see tutors Suzy Paalman and Chester Burke give a demonstration of the college’s new quantum mechanics equipment.


Acquired via a generous grant from the Hodson Trust and carefully assembled by lab director Mark Daly over the course of several months, the equipment will be used for several experiments in senior lab in conjunction with readings from Paul Dirac’s “The Principles of Quantum Mechanics.” Students previously did these readings without any accompanying practical demonstration, and the new equipment is highly appreciated.


Using lasers (hence the safety glasses), the new equipment allows our seniors to perform experiments showing that light  simultaneously acts as both a particle and a wave. This behavior of light still hasn’t really been explained, and these experiments are considered among the most surprising in history. Describing them, Mr. Daly quoted noted physicist Niels Bohr: “Anyone who is not shocked by quantum theory has not understood it.”


Very few undergraduate programs in the country can boast this kind of equipment, and we’re very excited to see it added to the already rich laboratory science portion of our Program here at St. John’s!

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