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Einstein: Could he have been the father of QM?

  1. Nov 5, 2006 #1
    Recently, I have realized how much did Einstein contributed, indirectly, to the field of QM. I mean, using his two famous relations [itex]E=mc^2[/itex] (relativity) and [itex]E=hf[/itex] (photoelectric effect), we derived the relation [itex]p = \frac{h}{\lambda}[/itex]. Then, by the help of a keen insight from de Broglie, we hypothesized that matter could also behave like a wave (i.e. wave-particle duality) whose wavelength can be given by the relation [itex]\lambda = \frac{h}{p}[/itex]. This lead us (i.e. Schrodinger) to develop the concept of matter waves and wave equations that describe those matter waves. And the rest is history...

    What do you guys think about this? Are Einstein's contributions to the field of QM significant? Could he have realized the implications of his relations but didn't proceed any further? Could he possibly have been the father of QM if only he had been a little more open-minded?
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2006 #2
    Most of the books I've read give Einstein a fair bit of credit for his work on the photoelectric effect. Of course, as seems typical in science, QM didn't really have a single "father", there were many people who contributed various pieces to its development over a period of many years.

    I think it's more interesting (not to mention accurate) to study the history of the development of a particular field rather than over simplify matters by declaring one particular person who did early work on it as being the father of it all.
  4. Nov 5, 2006 #3
    Einstein in 1905 took the Plank idea of a mathematical analogy of quantum units of energy to resolve black body radiation as Plank himself took it, and changed it to a reality in the photo electric effect. With that he became the father of ALL quantum theories.
    I’m not sure what you might have expect “in little more open-minded” of him to allow him “discover” QM as a solution to QT. When in his entire life he never accepted QM as a complete and correct solution to QT.
    So no, as he never changed his mind even as most everyone else did accept QM, I doubt he would have ever have been of a mind to create the uncertainty principle, nor the de Broglie solution.
  5. Nov 5, 2006 #4


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    His view is that he didn't abandon QM, which he continued to be interested in to the end of his life (he was enthusiastic about the algebraic approach that started in the fifties). But he couldn't stand the Bohr-Heisenberg-Born version of it, and considering the kind of "interpetations" it has spawned, maybe he had a point? Schrodinger agreed with him and such a mighty figure of modern times as 't Hooft has tried to find alternatives to it.

    BTW, don't forget that among his contributions to QM are the formulas for stimulated emission, the germ of lasers and masers.
  6. Nov 6, 2006 #5
    I disagree.
    If Einstein were asked to draw a fine line of it, he would acknowledge “the Bohr-Heisenberg-Born version of it” as being QM and they Bohr-Heisenberg-Born are welcome to being the originators of that version.
    Einstein’s point would be that there is a difference between QM and QT mainly that QM could not be (note the conviction) a correct and complete version of “it” (“it” = Quantum Theory).
    And as you point out several others agreed that Einstein might be right (maybe with a bit less conviction).

    So of course he continued to want to fix QT with GR, or Field GR, or field something – as he “knew” in his view that QM was wrong. That is why most (granted not all) scientist consider most of the last half of his life as wasted, because you did not accept QM, and even simply ignored the “speculations” it generated, even where experiments confirmed them, of Strong and Weak forces and the implications of The Standard Model.
    He expected that the “Correct Solution” would provide a better view of reality, and endeavored to reach that solution without the use of the ‘incorrect’ QM.

    Of course his failure to do so, only enforced the position of Bohr-Heisenberg-Born and proponents that QM is THE solution to Quantum Theory, and the majority today, unlike Einstein, agree to such an extent that the two terms, QM and QT, are consider to mean the same thing.

    That is why I see Einstein as the “Father” of QT and never “abandoned” it.
    But he never accepted QM to even be able to abandon that.
  7. Nov 6, 2006 #6
    Einstein was the "luckiest" man in history...everyone of us in this forum could have deduced equations for "Photoelectric effect" and "Specific Heat" (Einstein model), without any problem..:tongue2: i'm really asking myself if he was really a genious..do you need to be a genious to deduce [tex] 2+2=4 [/tex]?
  8. Nov 6, 2006 #7
    The fact that you ``could'' have done it, doesn't imply that you would have thought about it. True genius doesn't only consist in solving difficult problems but in tackling the right ones. It is for example well known that Elie Cartan had to explain him some aspects of differential geometry ``more than once''. However, the multitude of physical insights produced by that man about the vacuum, Brownian motion, the equivalence principle as well as some ``practical'' insights in QM (he never thought of his photon model in the silly way people do in these days) makes him a great physicist. If you place his ideas about the photoelectric effect in the correct time spirit, then what he said was perpendicular to all insights at that time : the Newtonian theory of light had been surpressed by Huygens insights for over one century by then. So it is very doubtful to say the least that you would have even considered ``photons''.

  9. Nov 6, 2006 #8
    I've wondered why deBroglie didn't come up with the Schrödinger equation when he seemed to have all the ingredients. It seems obvious that if you have a plain "pilot" wave

    \psi = \exp[i(\bold{k \cdot r} - \omega t)]


    p = \hbar k
    E = \hbar \omega

    And assuming non-relativistic motion

    E = \frac{p^2}{2m} + V(x)

    That the wave satisfies

    [-\frac{\hbar^2}{2m}\nabla^2 + V]\psi = i\hbar \frac{\partial}{\partial t} \psi
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2006
  10. Nov 7, 2006 #9


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    It may seem obvious now, but why in the World would one choose a "pilot" wave to represent a particle?

    I sense a Bohmian. :smile:

    I would argue that Max Planck, recognized by the Nobel Prize Organization as the father of QM, is the father of QM. :rolleyes:

    He was the first to consider quantization, the heart of QM.
  11. Nov 7, 2006 #10


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    I wouldn't consider "quantization" (= discreteness of quantities) as the heart of QM. To me, it is the superposition principle, the weirdest idea ever thought of: if a thing can be in state A, and it can be in state B, then it can be in both at once.
    You have also "quantization" in classical electrodynamics (eigenmodes and all that), and even more in non-linear classical theories.
  12. Nov 7, 2006 #11
    However.. i believe Einstein, Newton and others are "over-valued", one thing is to create the "Standard Model" which requires a great amount of imagination and math, and other think is to take and PDE and call it Schröedinguer equation and almost get the nobel prize or to create an atomic model that only works for Hydrogen..that's very stupid, i you everyone could have invented it, they only were luckier than we are,.. because nowadays.. who's able to solve a math or physic problem without having at least Ph. D in math and phsyics?, however 100 hundred years ago everything was easier..
  13. Nov 10, 2006 #12
    I think you really do not understand the non trivial work these people have made in THEIR time. Newton basically founded the modern methodology of physics, prior to him natural philosophy was just that : philosophy (nothing better than epicycles). Einstein had the courage to return partially to the Newtonian theory of light which was entirely abandonned ; his invention is of a similar magnetude to a proof in these times that nature is local realistic. If there is something naive, then it is indeed the Schroedinger wave, that is why its inventor came back from some related insights some 10 years after he wrote it down (wish more people would have done it). Now, to say that their work is trivial ``because the math can be done by any grad student in these days´´ is rather arrogant and silly. Moreover, you seem to be taken by the confusion that the next great step in physics needs a major mathematical impetus ; I do not think this to be the case.

    Therefore, I do not understand why you value QFT so much; it does not require a mathematical genius to figure out that some steps are really illegitimate (and I for sure think that the physics behind it is incorrect too). Actually, to do path integrals as physicists do them, you only need some integral calculus and fourier (functional) analysis given that the latter framework has not reached the level of rigor of unbounded operators on Hilbert spaces yet.

    Last edited: Nov 10, 2006
  14. Nov 10, 2006 #13
    I think that quantum gravity is also simple as 3+3+3=9, but none has find it.
    Superstring is not simple and I think it will not give quantum gravity theory. We need real sociological-psihological analysis of string researchers.
  15. Nov 11, 2006 #14


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    Watching the professor pull off proof after proof after proof is really easy, and you go back with a certainty that you understand the obviously simple subject matter. Then you try to do it for yourself and realize you can't even prove ~a or a without trying for 10 minutes.

    Hindsight is 20-20.
  16. Nov 11, 2006 #15
    -Yes of course, perhaps to deduce (in my case at least) Schröedinguer equation it would have taken me 2 or 3 months, whereas he took only perhaps a week but this does not mean i couldn't have made it only it would have taken me more time :rolleyes:

    - In the case of Newton..Did you know that Fermat wrote the "correct" expression for the derivative before Newton??.. ¡¡¡ and he was only a lawyer¡¡..then shouldn't be so hard, the inverse-square law is just a direct consequence of Kepler's second law and using Normal acceleration.

    - If Einstein were so clever..why didn't he find Quantum Gravity??? :redface: :redface: the reply "he didn't believe in QM" is not an excuse, he SHOULD have discovered it in another different way. :grumpy: (unless of course he really weren't much clever than you and me :tongue2: :tongue2: )
  17. Nov 11, 2006 #16
    So all the people today working on quantum gravity is stupid because they havent find a working theory yet?

    The mathematics wasnt the issue, the issue was to crack a completely new idea and se if it fits with reality.
    History of physics is quite interesting and realy shows that guys like einstein, bohr, fermi, ect was brilliant. Because they tried ideas no one else even considered.

    If you or me where born before bohr I doubt we would come up with the idea that the hydrogen spectrum can be explained by quantised electron orbits around the core.

    If the schrödinger equation was so obvious, why did brilliant men like heinsenberg, born, bohr ect miss it?

    Maby you can make the next big discovery now today. It should be just as easy as finding the schrödinger equation was for schrödinger.
    Im sure it will seem very obvious to people in 100 years and someone will call everyone alive now stupid for not noticing it.
  18. Nov 11, 2006 #17
    You’re implying that QM has produced a complete description of Quantum Gravity.
    If that were so QM would have displaced GR by now – it has not.

    To get it right someone must correct GR or QM with the other. Or replace or correct both with something new, as they both can not be correct.

    So if Einstein would not be good enough for you, who in history would you bring back to our current time (and modern base of information) is “smart” (creative, insightful) enough to solve this puzzle when no one else can.
    Or do you have someone alive now you belive will do so soon once they have a bit more time.
  19. Nov 11, 2006 #18
    To Karlisbad
    Even the simplest concepts that we have now, weren't clear at all at those days.
  20. Nov 11, 2006 #19


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    There has just been a derivation of an analytic solution of the tachyon vacuum in string field theory. Since you're so smart why don't you derive it yourself without peeking at the paper? Should only take you a few days if you could have done all the stuff you claim in the past.

    Perfectly true, but describing Fermat, of Fermat's Last Theorem fame, as "only a lawyer" is a bit like describing Newton as "only an alchemist". And of course neither Fermat nor Newton, nor anyone else in the seventeenth century, had a good understanding of limiting processes.

    Einstein had three wonderful ideas, ideas that won't go away no matter how some people wish they would: Relativity, Dynamic Quanta, and Dynamic Spacetime. Nobody else in the twentieth century, in fact nobody since Newton, had so many. What have you done that I need to know about?
  21. Nov 11, 2006 #20
    * Quoting Self-adjoint : *

    " There has just been a derivation of an analytic solution of the tachyon vacuum in string field theory. Since you're so smart why don't you derive it yourself without peeking at the paper? Should only take you a few days if you could have done all the stuff you claim in the past "

    Of course but math theory involving the strings or super-strings is harder to understand than for example Sturm-Liouville problems (linear) or PDE--> involved in SE , any college student can understand this, however you won't meet many more graduate (only) students that understand String-theory.. if string theory involved only trivial math calculation (derivatives integrals and so on) anyone could deduce its properties.

    Abother quote of Self-adjoint:

    Einstein had three wonderful ideas, ideas that won't go away no matter how some people wish they would: Relativity, Dynamic Quanta, and Dynamic Spacetime. Nobody else in the twentieth century, in fact nobody since Newton, had so many. What have you done that I need to know about?"

    Yes,but Photoelectric effect was (or could have been derived) from Planck's idea of quanta (the same idea applies to specific heat since Einstein only made the substitution of an integral by a geommetric series, and expanding the potential near its minimum....that's all, the relativity idea and space contraction were derived before einstein by Lorentz and Poincare, and the equivalence principle were proposed by Ernst Mach among others.

    Of course i don't want to be misunderstood.. i'm not saying "I'm the biggest genious in the world and Einstein and others were stupid "... i only wanted to express my disagreement with yours about this post :grumpy: give all the possible math in the world and i will be able to solve almost any problem...that's only a question about math.
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