Brownian Motion


title: Brownian Motion

Brownian Motion

Brownian motion or pedesis (from Ancient Greek: πήδησις /pέːdεːsis/ “leaping”) is the random motion of particles suspended in a fluid (a liquid or a gas) resulting from their collision with the fast-moving atoms or molecules in the gas or liquid.

This transport phenomenon is named after the botanist Robert Brown. In 1827, while looking through a microscope at particles trapped in cavities inside pollen grains in water, he noted that the particles moved through the water; but he was not able to determine the mechanisms that caused this motion. Atoms and molecules had long been theorized as the constituents of matter, and Albert Einstein published a paper in 1905 that explained in precise detail how the motion that Brown had observed was a result of the pollen being moved by individual water molecules, making one of his first big contributions to science. This explanation of Brownian motion served as convincing evidence that atoms and molecules exist, and was further verified experimentally by Jean Perrin in 1908. Perrin was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926 “for his work on the discontinuous structure of matter” (Einstein had received the award five years earlier “for his services to theoretical physics” with specific citation of different research). The direction of the force of atomic bombardment is constantly changing, and at different times the particle is hit more on one side than another, leading to the seemingly random nature of the motion.

Brownian motion is among the simplest of the continuous-time stochastic (or probabilistic) processes, and it is a limit of both simpler and more complicated stochastic processes (see random walk and Donsker’s theorem). This universality is closely related to the universality of the normal distribution. In both cases, it is often mathematical convenience, rather than the accuracy of the models, that motivates their use.

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