The most accepted structure of atom is given by the quantum mechanical model of atom, then why do we study atomic and molecular physics, if it is wrong .??

I sometimes don't feel like studying it , I ask to myself why am I studying and that also a whole book in very very very detailed manner , when it's not true

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    $\begingroup$ Can you rephrase the question, please? What do you mean exactly? Atomic and molecular physics is a branch of physics that uses quantum mechanics $\endgroup$
    – Mark_Bell
    Apr 20, 2021 at 2:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Nandani Kumari it is sometimes better to start things from basics even if it's wrong. It is always better to know how physicists reached to their final model in place of just knowing the final model . It tells us about our mistakes and limitations of knowledge.. Students are taught about the wrong models so that they may develop the skill of modifying theories if something goes wrong in predefined theories. $\endgroup$
    – Ankit
    Apr 20, 2021 at 5:23
  • $\begingroup$ Mark_Bell. I mean to say , in atomic and molecular physics we study Sommerfeld model which says e orbit in an elliptical path , but in actual e can have any arbitrary position in its e cloud ( formally k/ a atomic orbitals), now based on that elliptical path only we study vector model of atom ,the precession of magnetic moment ( spin and orbital ) then based on this we study the various types of coupling so , is these all true ,if yes how , as Schrödinger equation gives no proof of existence of an orbit and as a result no magnetic moments hence no couplings , so why should we study all that . $\endgroup$ Apr 20, 2021 at 8:26

1 Answer 1


Same as why we study newton mechanics in school, when we know it is 'wrong' because general relativity exists.

Quantum mechanics is unhandy or too complex for most practical uses. Our simplified models of an atom work just enough to do chemistry.

One could argue that nowdays even supercomputers are available to everyone for cheap, and we could use it every time we want to calculate what will happen when we dissolve sugar in water. But for the time being we dont. It cost money to calculate anything but the most trivial things. Calculations cant be done by home computer quickly enough, and definitely cant be dont quickly enough by hand or mentally. Programs we have are very much not user friendly.

We also try to keep options available for every level of complexity, so that a person can find an explanation from school level to PhD level, and slowly gain better understanding. If we will switch to just one-fits-all model, there will be an ivory tower effect and that has a lot of social consequences.


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