The father of modern physics

Categories: Albert Einstein
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I think it has to be said that Einstein is arguably the most influential scientist of all time, without his work the world of quantum physics, and physics in general, would be a much darker and less understood place. His work has provoked much of the scientific knowledge we have today and has made physics as a whole a more accessible subject for everyone. His wide influence has made him a household name among many families.

Einstein is most in famous for the works he produced in the Annus Mirabili – extraordinary year – in this year he produced four papers, these papers were substantial foundations to modern physics.

All of these papers were written in German, their translated titles are as follows: “On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light”, this paper proposed the idea of energy quanta, and put forward an explanation to the Photoelectric Effect.

Einstein states that “the energy of a light ray spreading out from a point source is not continuously distributed over an increasing space but consists of a finite number of energy quanta” (Einstein 1905) [1]) this went against the accepted Maxwellian theories of light and radiation, due to this many scientists did not accept this theory, one of these scientists included Niels Bohr, who stated in his Nobel address in 1922 (17 years after Einstein first proposed the idea, and 1 year after he received the Nobel prize for his work on photoelectricity) that the idea was “quite irreconcilable with so-called interference phenomena [and] not able to throw light on the nature of radiation” (Helge Kragh 2012 [2]).

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This statement also paved the way for the theories of wave-particle duality, which is the basis for almost all Quantum Mechanics. When I read about this I couldn’t really help but think how smug Einstein would have been when energy quanta was accepted by the scientific world (18 or so years after he first proposed the idea), for him to just know he was that far ahead of the rest of physics.

His work on energy quanta was largely influenced by Max Planck’s earlier work on Black Body Radiation, which, as far as my understanding reaches, theoretically explored the ideas of a “perfectly black” (Annalen der Physik 1860[3]) body which would absorb all incident radiation, this paper led Planck to derive his famous formula E=hf, which shows the relationship between energy and frequency, and uses Planck’s own constant (6. 63×10^-34).

The effects that energy quanta and the photoelectric effect has had on society is quite hard to measure or see, because there aren’t that many direct links to things we use every day, or things we depend upon, these two theories are more of a backbone to many modern concepts we take for granted. The photoelectric effect is used in solar cells and a photomultiplier (which is used to detect photons). I am sure there are other applications too but trying to find them (even with the whole internet at my disposal) is a rather hard thing to do.

Some of the applications of the theory of energy quanta are; in Geiger counters where the ability of photons to ionise gas molecules is used to detect radiation (and since the theory of energy quanta is such a large part of quantum physics I think I will throw in a few things that quantum physics does for us), quantum mechanics is vital in the understanding of Chemistry (as all Chemistry can be explained using physics), chemistry is all about understanding the energetic properties of bonding, and this is explained through quantum mechanics, the use of transistors, lasers and diodes all rely on quantum effects (that covers just about all of electronics) and greater understanding of quantum effects leads to innovation in electronics, providing faster and more powerful computing (that’s the main use really).

Though it is probably debatable as to whether or not the understanding of quantum effects has led to a great change in modern electronics, we may have ended up where we were without fully understanding it, but then that is just me speculating.

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Light Research Topics
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The father of modern physics. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

The father of modern physics

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