“Quantum Mechanics and Radioactive Disintegration” in Physical Review, Vol. 33, Second Series, No. 2, February 1929, pp. 127-140. R. W. Gurney, E. U. Condon.

“Quantum Mechanics and Radioactive Disintegration” in Physical Review, Vol. 33, Second Series, No. 2, February 1929, pp. 127-140

Arlington: American Institute of Physics, 1929. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION IN ORIGINAL WRAPS OF “THE DISCOVER[Y] OF THE PHENOMENON OF QUANTUM TUNNELING” (concurrent with George Gamow) (Shaviv, The Synthesis of the Elements, 170). “Quantum tunneling is the phenomenon in which a quantum particle finds a way to penetrate a barrier that is impossible to do in classical physics because even though the kinetic energy of the particle is lower than the potential energy of the barrier, the indeterminate nature of quantum behavior leads to the kinetic energy being larger than the barrier during some periods of time. Quantum tunneling plays an essential role in a number of physical phenomena, including radioactive decay, nuclear fission and fusion and chemical bonding” (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection).

The discovery was “a major breakthrough in our understanding of radioactive decay” (ibid). Their theory “was extremely important, both because it provided a convincing demonstration that quantum mechanics applies to the atomic nucleus and because it formed the basis of other applications of quantum mechanics to nuclear physics” (Kragh, Quantum Generations, 178).

When Gurney and Condon discovered the mechanism of quantum tunneling, their were trying to explain a wholly different phenomenon, that of particle decay (History of Physics: The Wenner Collection). Gurney and Condon briefly announced their explanation of the role in quantum tunneling of alpha decay in Nature in 1928, and while Gamow was literally the first “to propose the theory… Gurney and Condon beat him to publication by a few weeks” (ibid). However the full description of Gurney and Condon’s discovery was not presented until the 1929 publication of this paper. Specifically, the team describe beta radiation as quantum tunneling.

“The Gamow-Gurney-Condon theory was extremely important, both because it provided a convincing demonstration that quantum mechanics applied to the atomic nucleus and because it formed the basis of other applications of quantum mechanics to nuclear physics.

“The statistical nature of radioactivity had been a puzzle ever since it was recognized in the early part of the century. Numerous attempts had been made to provide a casual explanation of the origin of radioactivity, but it was only with quantum mechanics that it was realized that such attempts to make sense of radioactivity’s statistical nature were futile.

“As Gurney and Condon put it in [this paper], referring to these attempts: ‘This has been very puzzling so long as we have accepted a dynamics by which the behavior of particles is definitely fixed by the conditions. We have had to consider the disintegration as due to the extraordinary conjunction of scores of independent events in the orbital motions of nuclear particles. Now, however, we throw the whole responsibility on to the laws of quantum mechanics, recognizing that the behavior of particles everywhere is equally governed by probability” (Kragh, 357). Item #701

CONDITION & DETAILS: Full issue in original wraps. Minneapolis: American Institute of Physics. Royal 8vo. (10 x 7 inches); 250 x 175mm. Slight edge wear and fading. Bright and clean throughout. Very good condition.

Price: $800.00