correspondence principle

correspondence principle, physical principle, enunciated by Niels Bohr in 1923, according to which the predictions of the quantum theory must correspond to the predictions of the classical theories of physics when the quantum theory is used to describe the behavior of systems that can be successfully described by classical theories. Technically this principle means that the results of a quantum theory analysis of a problem that involves the use of very large quantum numbers must agree with the results of a classical physics analysis. Such correspondence is known as the classical limit of the quantum theory. Ordinarily the quantum theory is used to describe the behavior of bodies that are so small that they cannot be seen under an optical microscope, while the theories of classical physics are used to analyze the behavior of large-scale bodies. The correspondence principle provided an important theoretical basis for the development of a detailed correlation between the newer quantum theory and the classical physics that preceded it.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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