ANIMATIONS: Quantum Film Fest

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Science  04 Jan 2002:
Vol. 295, Issue 5552, pp. 19
DOI: 10.1126/science.295.5552.19c

The quirky rules of quantum mechanics state that particles are also waves, you can't know how fast you're moving if you know exactly where you are, and sometimes you have to turn things around 720 degrees to make them look the same again. If your reaction to all this is “I just can't see it,” check out Quantum Physics Online, a Web site offering dozens of interactive animations that illustrate quantum-mechanical basics covered in college physics classes.

Developed by Manuel Joffre of the école Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, the site opens with wave mechanics in one dimension. It then steps through quantization in 2D and 3D, and touches on the basics of spin, including magnetic resonance. The Java applets provide just enough buttons and adjustable parameters to engage users without overwhelming them with choices. The scant text may leave the individual student befuddled. However, the well-crafted animations could prove valuable lecture aids for physics profs.

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