Einstein's Method

A scholarly inquiry...
Suppose we take a method Einstein used extensively and apply it to current problems in QM and relativity?
  » Introduction
  » Photon and the
Double Slit
  » Quantum
  » Elitzur-Vaidman
  » Three Mistakes of
Quantum Theory
  » Chapter II
  » Chapter III
  » Table of Contents
  » Index
  » The Author
  » Purchase
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Overview of
Wave-Particle Duality

Open Directory
Interpretations of Q.M.

Einstein 1905

Einstein’s Method

This is a book about the conceptual foundations of modern physics. It looks at some traditional problems of in­ter­preta­tion (wave-particle duality, the Copen­hagen approach, entangl­ement, non­locality, the constant velocity of light) from a different perspective.

If you are familiar with the mysteries of quantum physics, then you might want to start with either wave-particle duality or quantum nonlocality.

If you are interested in special relativity (esp. space contraction and time dilation) then you might start here: The Paradigm of Projectile Motion.
A similar but longer paper that also treats Einstein’s second postulate is here: Special Relativity: A Reexamination of the Second Postulate and of Space Contraction and Time Dilation.

If you wish to understand 'Einstein’s Method' then continue below.

This book has almost no equations since its focus is the philosophy of physics and not physics itself. Excerpts from chapter II and III reveal the approach the book takes.

Thank you for visiting and consider leaving your own com­ments or questions.

There are many questions in modern physics that remain essentially unanswered. How can a photon or a speeding electron exhibit both particle and wave characteristics? What is the physical basis of a “probability wave?” Why is the velocity of light a constant for all observers? This book argues that we need a new approach, a new method, to make any progress regarding these questions. What we need to do is revisit and adapt a method that Einstein used with great success over two decades.

So what is Einstein’s method and how did he use it?

Einstein’s method is fairly straightforward. It is a form of analysis that utilizes the symmetrical relationship of the photon gas to the molecular (ideal) gas. In a series of papers between 1905 and 1925 Einstein made some startling advances in quantum theory by comparing mass quanta in the molecular gas to energy quanta in the photon (radiation) gas. The young Einstein was a serious student of both thermodynamics and molecular statistical mechanics and he used his “method” entirely within the realm of thermodynamics and statistical mechanics. A fine example of this is his “Heuristic Viewpoint” paper of 1905 wherein he argues that the entropy decrease of radiation compressed in time and molecular quanta compressed in space supports the conclusion that radiation is composed of discrete energy quanta. The proposal here is that the method of analysis that Einstein used within thermodynamics can be extended to areas that he did not cover. Specifically, his method can be applied to an ontological inquiry into the problems raised by quantum mechanics.

What is ontology and how can an ontological inquiry help us regarding the problems of modern physics?

Traditional ontology is the study of those things that exist, but it is broadened in these pages to include things (entities) that also occur. Ontology is important because the great questions of physics often revolve around what exists and what occurs. Consider the case of a speeding electron encountering a double slit and then terminating by impacting a barrier screen. When interacting with the double slit the electron acts as a wave which implies that it occurs, but when terminating at the barrier screen the electron acts as a particle which implies that it exists. So this becomes a question of ontology: does the speeding electron exist, or does it occur, or is there and intermediate state or process that can reconcile these polar opposites? This experiment in physics challenges our very notion of an entity’s identity as an existence, or an occurrence, but not both simultaneously. Shall we side with Bohr and conclude that reality depends upon how we measure it, or shall we keep faith with Einstein and his belief that reality is fundamentally objective despite quantum obfuscation? Einstein’s method applied in new ways to the photon gas and the molecular gas provides new insights into these questions that have been debated for almost a century.

Einstein’s method suggests that matter and radiation are formally analogous in terms of what exists and what occurs (ontology). Whereas one entity (at-rest inertial matter) exists, has the field form and progresses in time, the other entity (radiation) occurs, has the waveform and progresses in space. Non-stationary matter (projectile) is a breed apart and is treated separately since it combines both the waveform and the field form.

Matter and radiation are characterized by mass and energy respectively. Providing it is stationary in space relative to an observer, inertial matter has kinetic (rest) mass but no kinetic energy (for that observer). In contrast, radiation has kinetic energy but no kinetic (rest) mass. The following formal conditions then prevail.

Mass-as-stationary-matter exists, is quantized, has the field form, and progresses (ages) over time. On the other hand, energy as radiation occurs, is quantized, has the waveform, and progresses over space. Kinetic mass has the field form because it exists as it extends over space and progresses in time; kinetic energy has the waveform because it occurs as it oscillates over time and progresses in space. Both quanta have an intensity level (density for one, frequency for the other), and this intensity, multiplied by quantum extension (in space or in time) yields its quantitative measure (mass or energy respectively).

Space-stationary mass quanta and time-stationary energy quanta (radiation) progress at the maximum possible rate in opposite dimensions. Photons proceed through space at the speed of light which cannot be exceeded for any observer. Space-stationary mass quanta proceed through time at the maximum rate since once they start moving through space relative to some observer their time progression (clocks) slow down.

In short, the space-stationary mass (particle) and the time-stationary photon are ontological opposites, and their contrast extends beyond that of existence versus occurrence. Formal comparisons between material quanta and radiation quanta can provide insights into the nature of the photon. In addition, this kind of analysis has a heuristic value: assumptions made about one quantum either have their counterpart in the opposite quantum or they must be considered suspect. That is perhaps one of the greatest values of 'Einstein’s Method.' Although the greatest physicist, Einstein, used this analysis, current physicists do not. Even worse, this approach is also out of fashion with philosophers of physics. But on the positive side an increasing number of philosophers and physicists have grown dissatisfied with the classical (Copenhagen) interpretation of quantum mechanics. Others resist the very human tendency to cling to familiar and accepted ideas at the expense of considering new ideas. I hope you will read on if you belong to either of these groups.