I’m currently reading Siri Mitchell’s State of Lies for my book club (SO GOOD!!!!), in which the heroine is a quantum physicist. (Which her 6-yr-old son calls a fizziest, which made me giggle.) I’ve been thoroughly enjoying all the science jokes on her T-shirts, and her musings about things like black holes.

And I also thought it would fun to take a quick peek at the history of the word. Quantum is directly from Latin, meaning “as much as,” which them in turn came to be “one’s portion.” This word has always been there in Latin, but it wasn’t borrowed for scientific purposes until Max Planck decided to use it in 1900 for these small portions of energy. It was Einstein who then took up the word and made it part of our vernacular, beginning in 1905 when he used the word in his Theory of Relativity; and then in 1912 actually coined the phrase “quantum theory” and, in 1922, “quantum mechanics.”

I do find it rather entertaining that if you look up the word in Merriam-Webster, the noun version means “small increments or parcels,” but the adjective means “large, significant.” Hmm…not sure how that one happened!

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