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Branch of mathematical physics that deals with atomic and subatomic systems. It is concerned with phenomena that are so small-scale that they cannot be described in classical terms, and it is formulated entirely in terms of statistical probabilities. Considered one of the great ideas of the 20th century, quantum mechanics was developed mainly by Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg, and Max Born and led to a drastic reappraisal of the concept of objective reality. It explained the structure of atoms, atomic nuclei (seenucleus), and molecules; the behaviour of subatomic particles; the nature of chemical bonds (seebonding); the properties of crystalline solids (seecrystal); nuclear energy; and the forces that stabilize collapsed stars. It also led directly to the development of the laser, the electron microscope, and the transistor.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on quantum mechanics, visit Britannica.com.