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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2005-06 >> abstracts

Tuesday, 14 February 2006
Atoms Entropy Quanta:
Einstein's Statistical Physics of 1905

John Norton, U of Pittsburgh,
HPS and Center for Philosophy of Science
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract:  Early in 1905, Einstein came to an astonishing conclusion.  Despite the very great success of Maxwell's electrodynamics and the wave theory of light of the nineteenth century, electromagnetic radiation sometimes behaves as if its energy is localized in quanta, somewhat like little corpuscles.  Einstein's core argument for this startling conclusion came from his mastery of statistical physics and his sustained efforts to estimate the size of atoms.  In this talk I will review Einstein's work in statistical physics of 1905, showing how he applied the same insights in his work on Brownian motion and dilute sugar solutions.  There he routinely exploited the idea that the macroscopic, thermal properties of systems like ideal gases and dilute solutions carry a distinctive signature of atomic discreteness.  He now found a similar signature in heat radiation.  The talk will be semi-popular.

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Revised 3/6/08 - Copyright 2006