What are the ripples inside the quantum corral?
The answer is in this chapter.
When this image from a scanning tunneling microscope was published by researchers at IBM’s Almaden Research Center in California, it stunned many scientists and engineers. The image shows 48 iron atoms that the researchers “dragged” into place to form a circle 14 nm in diameter on a specially prepared copper surface. The arrangement is called a quantum corral because, as with a ranch corral that fences in livestock, this barrier of iron atoms can fence in something. The ripples are a hint of that something.
One of the long-standing goals of physics has been to understand the nature of atoms. Early in the 20th century nobody knew how the electrons in an atom are arranged, what their motions are, how atoms emit or absorb light, or even why atoms are stable. Without this knowledge it was not possible to understand how atoms combine to form molecules or stack up to form solids. As a consequence, the foundations of chemistry—including biochemistry, which underlies the nature of life itself—were more or less a mystery.
In 1926, all these questions and many others were answered with the development of quantum physics. Its basic premise is that moving electrons, protons, and particles ...