Modern physics encompasses the twentieth century developments in science that arose from measurements using modern instrumentation showing that nineteenth century, or 'classical' descriptions of nature were not sufficient. The most significant developments were Einstein's general relativity, quantum theory and high energy particle physics. For the most part, relativity and high energy particle physics are not going to be tested on the MCAT, except insofar as a general, superficial sense of those subjects can help contextualize certain aspects of basic nuclear physics or atomic theory. Quantum theory is different. A good sense of the most important discoveries is an essential foundation for general chemistry. There is a lot of overlap between this chapter on Modern Physics and our chemistry chapter, Atomic Theory. While many classical approaches, such as for basic modeling of electrostatic potential energy changes, can be extremely helpful to building intuition for general chemistry, you must keep quantum theory always present to mind because without it there is no way to understand the structure of matter at the atomic and molecular level.
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Conceptual Vocabulary for Modern Physics