'Stranger Things' Science: What If You Needed to Know Planck's Constant to Save the World?

Space.com | 7/11/2019 | Amy Thompson
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Editor's note: This article contains spoilers for the Netflix original series "Stranger Things."

Season 3 of the Netflix hit series "Stranger Things" continues to prove the show's appreciation for science, giving a staple of quantum mechanics an important cameo.

X-Files - Stranger - Things - Government - Conspiracies

Much like the "X-Files," "Stranger Things" is teeming with government conspiracies, secret experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and shadowy agencies, but also packs in plenty of '80s nostalgia.

In the latest installment, we find our heroes trying to save the world from ending again. But this time, the one thing that can help them stop the creature trying to destroy everyone and everything they care about is not Eleven, a young girl whose telekinetic powers accidentally opened the door to the Upside Down, and her supernatural powers — it's Planck's constant.

Things - Are - Parallel - Worlds

Related: 'Stranger Things': How Realistic Are Parallel Worlds?

Putting the "quanta" in quantum mechanics

Physicist - Max - Planck - Amount - Energy

Named for physicist Max Planck, this fundamental physical constant links the amount of energy carried by a photon with its frequency. Currently, scientists calculate Planck's constant to be 6.62607015 x 10^(-34) joule-seconds.

Planck identified his game-changing constant in 1900, essentially putting the "quanta" in quantum mechanics, by describing how the tiniest bits of matter release energy in discrete bundles called quanta. In other words, energy transfers occur in set amounts, rather than continuous flows. And at any given wavelength, there was the smallest amount of light that could possibly exist.

Heat - Radiation - Atoms - Bit - Atoms

Planck figured this out by measuring heat radiation given off by vibrating atoms. To do so, he had to cheat a bit and assume that atoms could vibrate only at certain frequencies, which happen to be whole-number multiples of some base frequency, which he called h. That meant atoms could vibrate at frequency h, or 2h, or 3h, but not 2.5h. That turns out to be because you couldn't make half...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Space.com
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