June 1, 2005 4:00 AM PDT

A century later, Einstein's first ideas still hold power

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called photons. Einstein's work helped show that light behaved both as particle and a wave.

Light's wavelike nature could be seen in phenomena such as interference patterns that also appear with waves in water. For example, with both light and water, peaks of two waves can combine into a taller peak, or a trough of one wave can cancel out the peak of another.

special report
Old school
An 18th-century theory on probability is a major force in today's application development.

But some phenomena don't take well to the wave description. One was the photoelectric effect, in which light shining on metal causes it to emit electrons. Einstein's first 1905 paper relied on the quantum description of light to explain how an increase in the light intensity caused more electrons to be emitted--but not higher-energy electrons, as the wave theory predicts.

"This was revolutionary. Neither classic mechanics nor classical electromagnetic theory could survive in the face of quantum phenomena," said John Stachel, editor of "Einstein's Miraculous Year: Five Papers That Changed the Face of Physics."

Quantum physics didn't even sit well with Einstein himself. "No longer did tiny particles have a definite position and speed...Einstein was horrified by this random, unpredictable element in the basic laws and never fully accepted quantum mechanics," said Stephen Hawking, a cosmologist at the University of Cambridge in England, in an essay in Robinson's book.

Molecules and atoms
The next two papers were easier for the physics community to swallow. They validated the idea that matter was composed of atoms and of groups of atoms called molecules.

Though most scientists accepted the concept, there were significant holdouts. "At that time, there were people who doubted the existence of molecules," Stachel said.

The first of these papers, a doctoral thesis submitted in April, was Einstein's prediction that the size of molecules could be gauged by the effects of dissolving sugar in a liquid. Einstein argued that "the effect of the dissolution of sugar molecules would change the viscosity of fluid; you can measure the viscosity, and from that estimate the size of the molecules," Stachel said. His prediction proved to be not far from reality.

Second was a description of the mechanism underlying Brownian motion--a particle's small random movements named after botanist named Robert Brown who observed pollen grains jiggling in water. Einstein derived a theory that predicted how far a particle will move over time, given such buffeting--a theory that was confirmed a few years later and which demonstrated that properties such as temperature and pressure were reflections of the average behavior of huge numbers of molecules.

Einstein's final two 1905 papers concerned relativity, the mind-bending idea about the ticking of clocks and the speed of light that most people associate with Einstein.

In June came the first paper, describing special relativity. In it, Einstein proposed a solution to a problem that had plagued physicists concerned with the spread of light waves. The prevailing belief was that light waves traveled in a fixed medium called the ether, analogous to how water waves travel in the medium of the ocean and sound waves travel in the medium of the air.

Under that belief, the speed of light would vary according to how fast an observer was traveling compared with the ether. Physicists Albert Michelson and Edward Morley famously failed to find that difference in an experiment to measure changes in the speed of light as the Earth moved in different directions compared with this theoretical ether.

Einstein's June paper simply did away with the idea of the ether and said light moves at the same speed--about 186,000 miles per second--

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Celebrating Einstein: Better wait on that!
Before we go off on the wonders of Einstein's theories one should take a close look at a self published book written by a young electrical engineer from Canada named Mark McCutcheon. His book, The Final Theory: Rethinking Our Scientific Legacy, provides a logical and consistent "Theory of Everything". The establishment has been profoundly quiet in response. Has this young man recognized that the "Emperor has no clothes!"?
From gravity theory ala Newton to electricity and magnetismm, and on to the limits on the speed of light his explanations, while at first startling, make perfect sense to me (and are logically consistant without resort to "paradoxes")-but then I am an economist (albeit, with some significan technical training).
I don't know this guy personally and have no monetary interest in the book nor in any of his ideas. But this has been the most thought provoking book I have read in years--and I read a lot of thought provoking books. For more information go to www.TheFinalTheory.com
James P. Savage III
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Just because it 'makes sense'
Doesn't mean it is correct.

Nature is full of paradox. Forcing science to 'make sense' is not science.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
One chapter is enough....
... to prove that the author is an overworked amatuer who
doesn't really understand what he is talking about. He makes a
case, mostly by omitting facts, which wouid impress the casual
reader, but fails to come up with anything useful.

It's a shame in a way. I'm sure that the author expended
considerable energy (and money) to get his book published. And
i'm equally sure that the author really thinks that he is
presenting a new and revolutionary idea. But the effort and
conviction is for naught.

And please don't begin 'The Great Conspiracy of Science'
argument. If there was any credibility to 'The Final Theory', it
would be making a big impact in the world in the three years
since it was published.

Unfortunately, this volume will go on the library shelves next to
Velikovsy and Von Daniken. But that's where it belongs.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag
Before writing "New Physics", one should at least know "old physics"
That McCutcheon guy needs go get a clue. Before listing "science flaws" he need some education. His answers to those "paradoxes" are like: "Where the light goes when it's turned off? To the refrigerator. Open it and you'll see".
1. Black holes. They don't stop shining just because they cool off. It's impossible to cool such enormous mass instantly.
2. Tunnel through the Earth. In ideal case (enclosed in vacuum), an object will oscillate back and forth indefinitely, just like an ideal pendulum, or ideal LC circuit, etc. The net energy produced is zero. In the real worls, the frictional losses will cause it to settle in the center of Earth. The net energy lost to friction will be the same as produced by fre fall to the center.
3. Work function. The guy obviously doesn't know that force and movement are vectors, and work is a scalar product of those. Scalar product of two perpendicular vectors is zero.
4. Fridge magnets. As long as the friction produced by the magnetic attraction is more than the object's weight, there is no motion and no energy spent. It can stay in that state indefinitely.
5. Freezing water. As strange it may sound for him, the energy released because of expansion is cooling the ice further. If you apply enough pressure, the water will stay liquid at 0C, but as soon as you relieve it, it will expand and freeze.

Et cetera,
Don't touch relativity, of you don't even know school physics.
Posted by alegr (1590 comments )
Link Flag
The next step
John Dobson has published some work which provides
food for thought in the next step to the "Theory
of Everything" Check <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://johndobson.org/jarticles.html" target="_newWindow">http://johndobson.org/jarticles.html</a>

- Gomu.
Posted by Gokulmuthu Narayanaswamy (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Sorry folks...
Here's another candidate for the bookshelf. Magic yet ever?????
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Link Flag

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