The Photon and the Wave, by Walter Smith
Marian McKenzie 3-15-05
In 1905, Einstein had a "miraculous year", in which he explained Brownian motion, explained the photoelectric effect, and developed special relativity. This song traces the history of the debate over the wave-particle duality concerning light, leading to Einstein's explanation of the photoelectric effect. Five years previously, Max Planck had resolved the "ultraviolet catastrophe" by assuming that light was divided into pieces, each of which had energy h-bar times omega, where h-bar is "Planck's constant" and omega is the angular frequency of the light. However, he didn't take this idea literally -- it was merely a mathematical trick that led to the right answer. However, Einstein did take the idea more seriously, and used it to explain the puzzling photoelectric effect. Einstein got his Nobel prizefor the photoelectric effect, in part because his explanation led directly to the development of quantum mechanics.
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