Brownian Motion

Brownian motion was first noted in Holland by the Dutch physician, chemist, and engineer, Jan Ingenhousz in about 17851. It was discovered independently in England in 1827 by English botanist Robert Brown who was the first to conclusively report it. While examining pollen floating in a liquid medium under a microscope, Brown noticed the pollen moving about in a strange way. He could not figure out what was causing the motion because the pollen had no means of locomotion itself.

Others besides Brown decided to look into this phenomena. It was determined that this strange motion also affected non-organic objects as well. However, the bigger the object, the less motion seemed to be imparted upon it. Thus Brownian motion could be observed on pollen, but not on a small stone.

The first published, accurate explanation for Brownian motion came from a Frenchman, Delsaux, who speculated that the grains of pollen were being pushed by the thermo-dynamic forces within the medium that surrounded them.

In fact, this proved to be the case. Einstein postulated that every object has within it a basic molecular or atomic motion (at temperatures higher than absolute zero). This meant that the pollen was pushed about by the motion of atoms that were so small that they could not be seen. These atoms were moving in the first place because of their temperature. The temperature of an object is directly related to the motion of the individual atoms within the solid, liquid, or gas in which they are held.

The motion imparted on an object by collision with small atoms or molecules is random. This total randomness makes Brownian motion a great model for the Random Walk Theory. This is the idea that every movement an object makes within a Brownian system is taken in a completely random way. Even so, certain predictions can be made based on probability theory. The known factor is the distance that an object will move over a specific period of time. In economics, random walk is the well-known idea that it is impossible to predict the next day's stock market move based on past performance. The move can be seen as the result of the collision of any particular stock with the individual interests of thousands and perhaps millions of investors.

Brownian motion has had tremendous impact on theories in physics, biology, economics, and chemistry.


  1. Brownian Motion Problem

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