Essays 1958-1962 on Atomic Physics and Human Knowledge by Niels Bohr

By Niels Bohr

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However, the Pickering and Fowler lines could not be included in the Rydberg formula for the hydrogen spectrum, unless the number n in the expression for the spectral terms were allowed to take half integrals as well as integral values ; but this assumption would evi­ dently destroy the asymptotic approach to the classical relationship between energy and spectral frequencies. On the other hand, such correspondence would hold for the spectrum of a system consisting of an electron bound to a nucleus of charge Ze, whose stationary states are determined by the same value nh of the action integral.

Of course, the practically uniform temperature within the organisms reduces the thermodynamical requirements to constancy or steady decrease of free energy. Thus, the assumption suggests itself that the formation of all permgnently or temporarily present macromolecular structures represents essentially irreversible processes which increase the stability of the organism under the prevailing conditions kept up by nutrition and respiration. Also the photo-synthesis in plants is of 26 ATOMIC PHYSICS AND HUMAN KNOWLED GE course, as recently discussed by Britten and Gamow, accompanied by an overall increase in entropy.

In the discussions of the foundations of biology the question of the role of notions beyond the language of physics has formed a main topic. From the one side the view has been expressed that such concepts, despite their evident fertility, would eventually prove superfluous. From the other side it has been argued that we have here to do with irreducible elements in any account of the display of life. The lesson as regards our position as observers of nature which quantum physics has taught us has given a new background to such discussions.

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