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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


               Quantum is a term, existing both as a noun and an adjective, which fundamentally associates itself with something of quantity. It is an entity that can be counted or measured, while also referencing a subject in totality. Likewise in science, quantum refers to the smallest amount of a physical quantity that can exist independently and a unit of energy.
               Its origins arise from the Post-Classical Latin word quantum, referring to the determination of quantity (4th century) and is a noun use of neuter form of the classical Latin adjective quantus, meaning how much or how great.[1] However, its earlier roots stem from the Latin word quam with a similar definition of ‘how’ or ‘how much’; and in its most primitive form as a combination of the Indo-European base of who, *qwos (kwos),*qwes (kwes), and the Indo-European base of classical Latin –tus. [1][2] In the early stages of the 20th century, quantum began to taken on meanings within the field of physics with the compound Elementaquantum (1900), referencing the electronic charge, and Max Planck’s paper that same year which although described quantum as an energy element, did not explicitly apply that terminology.[1] In 1905, the year of his Annus Mirabilis papers, Albert Einstein further cemented the term quantum in physics with his proposition that light radiated in the form of Energiequanta or ‘energy quanta’.[1] As a result, the scientific developments of the 20th century gave birth to one of the two pillars of modern physics, the first being General Relativity; the study of the universe at a macroscopic level, and the second, Quantum Mechanics; the study of the universe at a microscopic one.

               In physics, quantum is widely used to describe the smallest indivisible units of matter,
and through experiment it has shown that unlike the predictability of particular events that occur on a large scale, the world at a quantum scale is very much random.  The research and developments regarding the quantum world have led to modern-day applications and future ambitions in the case of the quantum computer, which takes advantage of the obscure nature of subatomic particles to perform highly complex processes instantaneously while providing the possibility of storing huge amounts of data on the head of a needle.  Another tangible application is quantum cryptography, which uses similar subatomic properties to encrypt data since the code repeatedly changes itself automatically upon a failed crack attempt. However, prior to the 20th century, quantum already had widespread use in science from physicians. For example, the term quantum satis, meaning ‘the amount which is needed’, originated as a quantity specification in medicine and pharmacology, and has contemporary use in ‘food regulations and food safety laws in the European Community’.[3] Though, when paired with a possessive adjective, quantum delineates ‘that which is allotted to or expected of a particular person; one’s share/portion, a quota’.[1]  Yet as an adjective, it 
specifies something large, or significant, carrying with it an antonymic connotation to its context in physics as a noun; while also defining something sudden, or of importance.

[1] "Home : Oxford English Dictionary." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. http://oed.com/view/Entry/155941 (accessed November 20, 2012).

[2] "Home : Oxford English Dictionary." Home : Oxford English Dictionary. http://oed.com/view/Entry/155941 (accessed November 20, 2012).

[3] "Quantum satis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_satis (accessed November 20, 2012).

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