I read where the electron (as well as a few other particles) skips around in its orbit randomly rather than move around the orbit smoothly. This effect has been repeatedly observed in the laboratory over the years.

I know if we treat this using quantum physics the electron exist in a fuzzy cloud of probability but in the old days before quantum physics what were they seeing in the laboratories when they found this effect?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure I understand the phrase "what were they seeing in the laboratories when they found this effect?" $\endgroup$ – BMS Mar 9 '14 at 21:10
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    $\begingroup$ This sounds a bit like someone has incompletely understood the distinction between classical orbits and quantum orbitals. And also incompletely understood what evidence exist for the difference. $\endgroup$ – dmckee Mar 9 '14 at 21:19

The process of electrons changing energy levels within atoms could of course be described by probabilities, but it is not something most physicists or chemists would characterize as "random".

Heated to incandescence, the spectra of atomic elements appears to be quite orderly and predictable, and this is due to quantized photon emissions from the outer valence electrons. Pauli's exclusion principle defines the electron configuration of each type of atom. No two electrons in an atom can ever occupy the same energy state. This is not random either. Of course electrons are subject to other laws of quantum mechanics, even in their bound states. Random" would imply that electrons are in some measure unpredictable, which for the most part. they are not.


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