Planck’s Fall: The Dark Side of Success

· blackbody radiation, physics

The recent sequence of posts on about  Max Planck and  Planck’s Radiation Law connects to an earlier sequence on my other blog:

The posts tell a Faustian story about a scientist who sells his rational soul for the fame and glory of being elevated to be the father of modern physics based on statistics of quanta.

Planck’s Fall from the Paradise of Classical Physics crowned by Maxwell’s wave equations, is expressed in the change of presentation of Planck’s Law from the initial one before the Fall in Eight Lectures on Theoretical Physics (1909) partly based on light as deterministic waves, to the final one after the Fall in The Theory of Heat Radiation (1914) based entirely on light as statistics of particles or energy quanta.

The irony is that the Fall initiating modern physics is a step back to the ancient idea of light as streams of particles introduced by Newton and then used by Prevost (1791) to describe radiation.

Modern physics is thus born as a counter-revolution to classical deterministic continuum electro-mechanics throwing physics back to an earlier more primitive form.

Planck’s scientific soul repelled the idea of energy quanta as real physics, but his bodily soul could not resist the attraction from the glory waiting after the Fall. The fight between his two souls is recorded in the book

The result of  Planck’s Fall can be seen in the fall of science we are now witnessing as CO2 alarmism (ultimately based on Planck’s proof of Planck’s Law after the Fall) is falling apart.

We pose the following question to the interested reader:

  • Why did Planck do what he did?
The documents are available. The analysis is waiting…


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  1. iceskaterfinland

    >>•Why did Planck do what he did?

    Evidently Einstein had no difficulty applying probability theory to light and had no difficulty about quanta and obviously admired what Planck had produced.

    From Einsteins 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect

    Click to access Einstein_1905_heuristic.pdf

    “THERE exists an essential formal difference between the theoretical
    pictures physicists have drawn of gases and other ponderable
    bodies and Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic processes in
    so-called empty space.”

    “The wave theory of light which operates with continuous
    functions in space has been excellently justified for the representation
    of purely optical phenomena and it is unlikely ever to be
    replaced by another theory. One should, however, bear in mind
    that optical observations refer to time averages and not to
    instantaneous values.

    “In fact, it seems to me that the observations on “black-body
    radiation”, photoluminescence, the production of cathode rays by
    ultraviolet light and other phenomena involving the emission or
    conversion of light can be better understood on the assumption
    that the energy of light is distributed discontinuously in space.
    According to the assumption considered here, when a light ray
    starting from a point is propagated, the energy is not continuously
    distributed over an ever increasing volume, but it
    consists of a finite number of energy quanta, localised in space,
    which move without being divided and which can be absorbed or
    emitted only as a whole.”

    “I shall show in a separate paper that when considering
    thermal phenomena it is completely sufficient to use the so-called
    “statistical probability”,

    Twenty years later Einstein wrote, “There are therefore now two theories of light, both indispensable, and — as one must admit today despite twenty years of tremendous effort on the part of theoretical physicists — without any logical connection.”

  2. Richard T. Fowler


    Only one problem; it is impossible for something to simultaneously be two different things that are mutually exclusive.

    That is what Einstein meant when he said “without any logical connection”. That is a euphemism for “mutually exclusive”.

    Then later, he stated:

    “All these fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me no nearer to the answer to the question, ‘What are light quanta?’ Nowadays every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks he knows it, but he is mistaken.”

    This seems to have been a stunning admission that he had been horribly wrong in his prior assertion that light quanta were probably discrete particles.

    Claes Johnson, on 22 February 2012 at, wrote:

    “The later Einstein considered the idea of photons as light particles to be an unfortunate mistake.
    “I agree and do not see that wave theory is not enough. Wave-particle duality is just a cover-up of a contradiction. There is no reason to introduce phonons as sound particles, because sound is well described as waves. The same holds for photons as light particles.”

    As to whether it is “sufficient” to use a particle model, I say we don’t know that until Claes finishes his calculations, or someone else beats him to it. Then, and only then, can we know how much different the answer is for Earth’s sensitivity to heat-trapping gases.


    • iceskaterfinland

      >>until Claes finishes his calculations, or someone else beats him to it. Then, and only then, can we know how much different the answer is for Earth’s sensitivity to heat-trapping gases.

      The Claes theory conforms to engineers radiation net heat loss curves. So what difference will it make anyway? At the moment when we do the calculations we assume the heat is ‘up there’, but some will return to ‘down here’. In the Claes theory the heat will be ‘down here’ and still have to make its way thru the atmosphere that does not allow rapid transmission of radiation according to the Claes theory as supported by the engineers heat curves.

  3. Richard T. Fowler

    No, in the Claes theories, there is turbulent dissipation in combination with radiative transfer.

    There are two relevant Claes theories, radiation and turbulent dissipation.

    You seem unaware that calculations are underway to determine what the Claes theories in combination conform to. But Claes has been rather vocal about that fact, in his papers and on blogs.

    What are these “engineers radiation net heat loss curves”? The only relevant calculations I can think that they could be based on are the existing meterological models using existing theories. So we’re back to that again. If you implictly believe those on faith, then this entire conversation has been a monumental waste of time.


    • Tor

      “No, in the Claes theories, there is turbulent dissipation”

      Would you be so kind and explain to me what turbulent dissipation in a string of charges are, in your own understanding.

    • iceskaterfinland

      Claes says his theory supports the radiation net heat loss curves. These curves are based on calculations supported by measurements that surfaces cool more rapidly when they have a line of sight to cooler surfaces than they would do to less cold surfaces.

      So for example here in Finland during the day at the moment the clear sky temperature is around -30C and the surface is about -3 degrees. If there was no emission from the sky above then the surface would have a line of sight to a surface of -273C and so the surface would cool much more rapidly.

      • Richard T. Fowler

        You have gone from “conforms to” to “supports”. Those two expressions imply different levels of congruence, at least to me. You still don’t seem to have realized there are two theories, which when combined are believed to give different climatic predictions, though calculations are in progress. There is Climate Thermodynamics and there is Computational Blackbody Radiation. Then there are his larger works, in which I believe can be found reference to those two methods.

  4. Richard T. Fowler

    “Would you be so kind and explain to me what turbulent dissipation in a string of charges are, in your own understanding.”

    You appear to be asking me what effect Claes’ radiative theory has on convection, relative to existing radiative theory. I think that question is better addressed to Claes. I am not a professional scientist, and I have not worked with these kinds of models.


    • Tor

      Why would convection have anything to do with black radiation?

      • Richard T. Fowler

        If you are asking why radiative transfer would have any effect on convection, I refer to you existing climate models which include something the modelers call a “GCM” which stands for “global circulation model”. This has been included for a long time because it was discovered that the models failed rather spectacularly without it. Of course, they are now failing rather spectacularly with it, but it took longer because they are more accurate with it than without it.


  5. Richard T. Fowler

    Skater, that second link was the one I was trying to refer you to, but my comment didn’t post.


  6. claesjohnson

    The dissipation from finite precision computation is not turbulent dissipation, but a dissipative effect from break-down of high-frequency coherent waves into incoherent waves which cannot be re-emitted as coherent waves because the required precision is lacking and thus will be stored as internal energy or heat energy or high frequency noise.

    • Tor

      “internal energy or heat energy or high frequency noise.”

      Whats the difference between those three?

  7. claesjohnson

    They are the same as internal energy = total energy – kinetic/potential/chemical energy.

  8. Tor

    Are you saying that the three are the same? (internal energy, heat energy, high frequency noise)

  9. claesjohnson

    Yes, when viewed from the exterior to the internal.

  10. iceskaterfinland

    Why the focus here on Planck?

    To calculate the *net* radiative heat losses from a hot object surrounded by colder objects you apparently use calculations created long before 1900, arising from the experimental observations of John Tyndall

    The law was deduced by Jožef Stefan (1835–1893) in 1879 on the basis of experimental measurements made by John Tyndall and was derived from theoretical considerations, using thermodynamics, by Ludwig Boltzmann (1844–1906) in 1884

    For gray bodies the Stefan-Boltzmann Law can be expressed as

    q = ε σ T4 A (2)

    If there are two bodies the **net** heat loss rate is expressed as

    q = ε σ (Th4 – Tc4) Ac (3)


    ε = emissivity of the object (one for a black body)

    σ = 5.6703 10-8 (W/m2K4) – The Stefan-Boltzmann Constant

    Th = hot body absolute temperature (K)

    Tc = cold surroundings absolute temperature (K)

    Ac = area of the object (m2)

    So two way radiation transfer was described by law before Planck.

  11. Tor

    Claes, I been trying to sort out exactly what you mean by this.

    but a dissipative effect from break-down of high-frequency coherent waves into incoherent waves which cannot be re-emitted as coherent waves because the required precision is lacking

    Could you be so kind to elaborate what you mean with lacking precision.

    And also what times corresponds to a coherent wave and an incoherent?

  12. claesjohnson

    A coherent wave is like the Mexican wave on a stadium with people raising their hands in a coordinated way, while an incoherent wave arises when people just chaotically jump up and down and scream. IR radiation is a collective phenomenon because the wave is several orders of magnitude larger than molecular dimensions.

  13. Tor

    Are we talking about the same type of electromagnetic waves now?

    Go through the derivation of the radiation field in the radiation zone from a classical dipole and see that one important approximation is that the length of the oscillation d must fulfill d << lambda (lambda the wavelength).

    As I remember it, the important quantity in light is the frequency, not the wavelength. In the classical sense, an atom radiates in a time of the order of 10 ns. So for far IR of frequencies around ~10^11 Hz, we can have a total wave of about ~10^3 wavelengths.

  14. claesjohnson

    I think the wave length is important. The emission must be phase coordinated to generate a coherent electromagnetic wave, which is what radiation is, and this requires coordination over the wave length.

  15. Tor

    Wavelength from what direction? Along the string?

    Thermal light is incoherent (maximum of 10 ns), that’s why you can’t do interference experiments with light bulbs.

  16. claesjohnson

    That is right, but that does not mean that it is completely chaotic, as it probably consist of phase-shiftted coherent waves.

  17. Tor

    “That is right, but that does not mean that it is completely chaotic, as it probably consist of phase-shiftted coherent waves.”

    No your are perfectly right, it’s not completely chaotic, that’s the 10^-8s that stems from how long one atom radiates coherently.

    The flux density results from time averaging over a time longer than 10^-8s and will be proportional to sum_i (N_i*E_i^2), where i indicates comparable radiation from atoms, N_i in number, radiating to the place. Because of the short coherence we are ensured that there will be no negative interference.

    Taking your stadium as an example, people will stand up and sit down randomly with different frequency for a short while, each generating radiation during that time in a wavepacket whose length is of the order of the time it’s generated.

  18. claesjohnson

    What makes people acting randomly generate a wave-packet traveling around the stadium, like the Mexican wave.

    • iceskaterfinland

      Claes, did you notice the link I gave to Maxwell who knew in 1871 that radiation created by emissions from a cold gas could be absorbed in a very hot gas? I suspect the original observation came from Kirchoff in 1860 but i cannot find it so far.

  19. Tor

    In my analogy the wave-packets are of course leaving the arena.

    Each person is a point source for electromagnetic waves.

  20. Tor

    Sorry, of course I meant to write that each person acts as a dipole generating electromagnetic waves.

    Using the formula for an ideal dipole we see that the wavelength far from the person will be deducible from the frequency the person sits and stands, since lambda = c/f.

  21. Tor

    On p 61 in Mathematical Physics of Blackbody Radiation

    The choice delta =h/T reflects that finite precision computation requires sufficient variation of a wave u over the coordination length  to allow coherent emission

    Based on the present conversation I wonder if this really is to be considered as valid.

    • Tor

      To clarify, I’m not questioning the conclusion about finite precision being limiting.

      I’m questioning if this gives realistic physics.

  22. iceskaterfinland

    Here is a curious fact noticed at least 140 years ago

    Red glass stops all light from any source that shines upon it other than red. The red is freely transmitted. Now we all commonly think in terms of whatever a substance absorbs then it will emit. But evidently this effect is strongly temperature dependant for red glass which glows green in the dark when quite strongly heated. Eventually it will glow red if heated further

    And heating red glass does not alters its transmission and absorption qualities

    Light appears to be totally unrelated to temperature.

    The discussion on those pages from 1860 is also interesting

    • iceskaterfinland

      >>Light appears to be totally unrelated to temperature.

      Ie it is related to the energy able to produce light. Eg chemical and biological energy or atomic enery or heat energy. But there is no connection to temperature which only measures the quantity of molecular motion. Where molecular motion is just kinetic energy where kinetic enery has many forms even at absolute zero and therefore no temperature or measurement of heat.

      • iceskaterfinland

        OK, it could be related to molecular temperature but then you have to argue that cold objects like a fungus have hot molecules which to me means you need the statistics that get rejected elsewhere. Ie a fungus is really hot in that small number of molecules.

        But then you cannot say that a warm molecule can cool itself by emitting light, if the temperature of the body is the same *measured* global temperature as the body that absorbs the light

      • iceskaterfinland

        Correction: Of course that should read then a molecule can cool by emitting radiation even when it is in a body that is warmer than the cool molecule

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