Classical radiation theory and Planck's constant

Prof Harry Paul, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

15:00 Thursday, 31. May 2012

Prof Harry Paul, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


It is shown that Planck's constant that is well known to govern the microscopic world, follows already from classical physics, namely an entirely classical theoretical treatment of blackbody radiation. In fact, the existence of Planck's constant, as one of the universal physical constants, is a necessary consequence of the radiation law by Stefan and Boltzmann. Hence, even its quantitative value might be deduced from measuring the temperature dependence of the frequency-integrated radiation energy. In the second part of the talk, in a historical review, Boltzmann's proof of the Stefan-Boltzmann law and Wien's derivation of his distribution law (Verschiebungsgesetz) are described. Both derivations deserve to be remembered, be it only because of the ingenious gedanken experiments they are based on.

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