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Sample Concept Paper (not a rhet/comp concept, though)

Satisfactory Essays
Sample Concept Paper (not a rhet/comp concept, though)

For John Wheeler, defining the term “quantum” in his essay “How Come the Quantum” (Best 41-43) seems the least of his worries. It’s a “thing,” he says, “a bundle of energy, an indivisible unit that can be sliced no more” as Max Planck’s observations 100 years ago indicate (41). Wheeler’s words ‘thing,’ ‘bundle,’ and ‘sliced’ are interesting: they seem at once colloquial and correct for the usage Wheeler makes of them. Quanta sound friendly, everyday. The just-folks tone continues as he observes that, thanks to quanta, “In the small-scale world, everything is lumpy” (41). He moves his readers forward smoothly (no lumps) to the next topic, what existence of quanta reveals about the uncertainness of the world, a world where chance guides what happens.

In spite of this uncertainty, Wheeler continues, quantum physics serves both practical and theoretical ends. The theories involved in quantum physics explain atomic structures, starlight, the earth’s radioactive heat, and the travels of particles (which are waves of energy, it would seem) between neutrinos and quarks. The vocabulary has gotten tougher; Wheeler clearly assumes his readers know what ‘particles’ and ‘waves’ mean when physicists use those “ordinary” words, let alone what they mean by neutrinos and quarks (41).

Enter the telltale ‘but.’ Wheeler seems troubled more by why quanta exist than how to define the quantum as a working concept in physics. He says, in fact, that “not knowing ‘how come’” the quantum shames “the glory of [its] achievements” in science (41-42).

From here Wheeler takes the reader back into the task of defining, or “interpreting,” the quantum. First, he cites his teacher Nils Bohr, who proposed that the gap between the world of quantum physics and that of everyday reality might be bridged by the act of measurement between them. What is measurable, Bohr explained, is necessarily limited. Furthermore, continued Bohr, because of the theory of complementarity, one can look at a phenomenon one way or another—but not both ways at once (42).

Wheeler next turns to his colleague in physics, Albert Einstein, who could never accept Bohr’s “world view” even when Wheeler’s student Richard Feynman offered an explanation of Bohr’s ideas about the quantum. Feynman’s explanation involved multiple simultaneous paths of travel for electrons; Einstein could not reconcile this explanation, however, with his own ideas about the relations between God and His creation (42).
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