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In Search of the Ultimate Building Blocks by Gerard 't Hooft

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3 The magical mystery of the quanta

Twentieth century physics began exactly in the year 1900 when the German physicist Max Planck proposed a possible solution to a problem that had been haunting physicists for years. The problem concerned the light emitted by any object that is heated to a certain temperature, and also the softer infrared radiation emitted, with less intensity, by colder objects.

It had become well accepted that all this radiation had an electromagnetic origin, and the laws of Nature for these electromagnetic waves were already known. Also known were the laws for heat and cold, so-called ’thermodynamics’. Or so it seemed. But if we use thermodynamic laws to compute the intensity of the radiation in question, the outcome does ...

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