Index Home About Blog
From: "Steve Harris" <>
Subject: Re: Astounded by mcg abbrfeviation!  A retail perspective........
Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2003 23:39:25 -0700
Message-ID: <bgkv2u$vqi$>

"Steve Turner" <> wrote in message
> Repeating Decimal <> wrote:
> >It reminds me of the use of s, p, d, f, and more for designating
> >angular momentum of electrons. Kicking and screaming, I finally
> >accepted these symbols as stand-ins of 0, 1, 2, and 3. It is that way
> >because it was always done that way.

No, it is that way because, long before there were
"orbitals" as solutions to Schroedinger's equation, there
were "sharp," "principal," "diffuse, and "fine" spectral
lines from various elements. Spectroscopists had an idea
they were looking at different broad classes of events, but
had no idea what underlay the classes.

Sigh. I memorized the letters and shapes of these orbitals
for a couple of years in high school, and then remember
still my shock when somebody finally told me the great
secret that the shapes are nothing more than 3-D
mathematical functions of a certain sort. Like cosine^2 and
sine^2 and stuff for the teardrops. "Is that all the *&%
they are"?!? quoth I. I suppose I had thought they were
handed down from God, or had been observed in a microscope,
or something.

At a certain age, you believe whatever adults tell you, and
never consider where THEY got their answers.  At another age
about 20 years later, you begin to wonder seriously where
anybody got *any* of their answers.


(Then, I suppose, not too long after that, you are supposed
to die and that's the end of you, and everybody is vastly
relieved to be rid of another skeptical old fart, so they
can go back to whatever today's rah-rah pep rally is. But
today the average person lives quite a lot longer than
Martin Luther did, and I don't really know what fresh
devilment is slated for my generation before we shuffle


Index Home About Blog