Glossary Qq


Q GASES - Major part of 'planetary' Ar, Kr, and Xe. These components (labeled Ar-Q, Kr-Q, and Xe-Q) usually dominate Ar, Kr, and Xe in primitive meteorites. Q gases are isotopically heavier than solar wind gases and are most likely of 'local' origin (probably trapped in the solar nebula by an ill-defined carbonaceous carrier 'phase Q').

QUANTUM - Smallest unit of some quantity. Plural: quanta.

QUANTUM MECHANICS - Theory which describes the behavior of the very small, such as molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles. Based upon the idea that physical quantities are discrete rather than continuous, and come in discrete bundles of "quanta," this theory has proven spectacularly successful at explaining experimental data. Gravity, however, cannot yet be made to fit within the theory.

QUANTUM NUMBERS - Numbers specifying the exact state of an electron in an atom (principal, angular, magnetic, and spin quantum numbers). The principal quantum number (n = 1, 2, 3 ...) indicates the distance between the electron and the nucleus. The average distance increases with n, and hence quantum states with different principal quantum numbers are said to belong to different shells. In spectrographic notation the shells are labeled K (n = 1), L (n = 2), M (n = 3), N (n = 4), etc. The maximum number of electrons in a shell is 2n2, thus a shell with n = 2 may hold a maximum of 8 electrons.

The azimuthal quantum number (l = 0, 1 ... n-1), also known as the angular quantum number or orbital quantum number, specifies the shape of an atomic orbital and strongly influences chemical bonds and bond angles. In spectrographic notation, l = 0 (spherical shape) is called an s orbital; l = 1 (dumbbell shape) is a p orbital; l = 2 (cloverleaf shape) is a d orbital; and l = 3 is an f orbital (complex shape)...

The magnetic quantum number (m = −l, −l+1 ... 0 ... l−1, l) specifies orientation in space. There is only one way in which a sphere (l = 0) can be oriented in space. Orbitals that have polar (l = 1) or cloverleaf (l = 2) shapes, however, can point in different directions.

Image source: http://www.chemcomp.com/journal/molorbs.htm.

To distinguish between the two electrons in each orbital, we need a fourth quantum number: the spin quantum number (ms of −1/2 or +1/2) was found experimentally from spectroscopy. In essence, one can imagine that electrons can spin either clockwise or counterclockwise.

Sublevels of different energy levels (n) may have overlapping energies.

Modified from image source: http://www.welsch.com/gallery/vektor/Energieniveauschema_634.jpg.

Particles in the nucleus of an atom may also be specified using a similar set of quantum numbers (below).

Modified from image source: http://www.lbl.gov/abc/wallchart/chapters/06/1.html.

QUANTUM TUNNELING - Quantum-mechanical effect of transitioning through a classically-forbidden energy state. It can be generalized to other types of classically-forbidden transitions as well. Also called "barrier penetration" or "tunneling," quantum tunneling is the means by which many fusion reactions take place in stars. This effect is due to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle; even if particles or nuclei lack the energy to pass an energy barrier there is a very small probability that they will pass through the barrier. However, this process happens with very small probability, and the Coulomb barrier represents a strong hindrance to nuclear reactions in stars.

Image source: http://abyss.uoregon.edu/~js/qc/qc.html.

QUARKS - Six fundamental particles with fractional charge that combine in pairs to produces mesons and in threes to produce baryons. Each quark type is characterized by its "flavor":

Quarks are tiny (<10-19 m) and only exist inside hadrons because they are confined by the strong (or color charge) force fields. Therefore, it is not possible to measure their mass by isolating them. The notion of a quark mass is a theoretical construct, which makes sense only when one specifies exactly the procedure used to define it. Three methods are used: the approximate chiral symmetry of quantum chromdynamics (QCD), the Gell-Mann-Nishijima mass formula, and Lattice QCD computations using the heavy quark effective theory. Examples of quark combinations are the proton (uud) and neutron (ddu).

QUARTZ - One of the silica group minerals common in Earth's crust. Quartz occurs in two forms (α and β) that are related by a displacive transformation. The high-temperature β form is not observed in nature because it converts into the low-temperature α form at 573 °C at 1 kilobar of pressure. The structure of quartz can be most easily visualized as corkscrewing chains (helices) of silicon tetrahedra aligned along the c axis. The corkscrews take four tetrahedrons to repeat (or three turns in which each tetrahedron essentially rotates 120°). Each helix is connected to two adjacent ones at each tetrahedron.

Quartz structure

Image source: http://www.uwgb.edu/dutchs/petrolgy/QuartzStruc.HTM.

There is only minor substitution of other elements for Si in quartz. Two trace substitutions postulated for quartz are: (Ti4+)tetrahedral ↔ (Si4+)tetrahedral and (Al3+, Fe3+)tetrahedral + (Fe3+, Na+, Li+, K+)interstitial ↔ (Si4+)tetrahedral. However, these substitutions are responsible for many of quartz's variable colors. For example, amethyst gets its purple-violet color from Fe3+, rose quartz its pink from Ti4+ (and inclusions?), smoky quartz its gray-black color from Al3+, and citrine its yellow from Fe (and irradiation).