Back in 2015, scientists found a classic formula for pi (π) hidden in the world of quantum physics. But this was the first time scientists had found it “lurking” in the world of physics, when using quantum mechanics to compare the energy levels of a hydrogen atom.
The discovery was made when Carl Hagen, a particle physicist at the University of Rochester, was teaching a class on quantum mechanics.
Professor explaining to his students how to use a quantum mechanical technique known as the ‘variation principle’ to approximate the energy states of a hydrogen atom.
While comparing these values to conventional calculations, he noticed an unusual trend in the ratios.
He asked Friedmann to help him work out this trend, and they quickly realized that it was actually a manifestation of the Wallis formula for pi – the first time it had even been derived from physics.
“That a formula for π is hidden inside the quantum mechanics of the hydrogen atom is surprising and delightful.”
“Nature had kept this secret for the last 80 years,” said Friedmann. “I’m glad we revealed it.”
We just can’t help but wonder what other secret connections are still out there, lurking between quantum mechanics and pure mathematics.