Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein

By Abraham Pais | Go to book overview

22
Interlude: The BKS Proposal

Sie haben sich heiss und innig geliebt. Helen Dukas

In January 1924, Niels Bohr, Hendrik Anton Kramers, and John Clarke Slater submitted to the Philosophical Magazine an article [B1] that contained drastic theoretical proposals concerning the interaction of light and matter. It was written after Compton's discovery, yet it rejected the photon. It was also written after Einstein and Bohr had met. This chapter on the BKS proposal serves a twofold purpose. It is a postscript to the story of the photon and a prelude to the Bohr- Einstein dialogue which will occupy us more fully later on.

I have already mentioned that Einstein was immediately and strongly impressed by Bohr's work of 1913. The two men did not yet know each other at that time. A number of years were to pass before their first encounter; meanwhile, they followed each other's published work. Also, Ehrenfest kept Einstein informed of the progress of Bohr's thinking. ' Ehrenfest tells me many details from Niels Bohr's Gedankenküche [thought kitchen]; his must be a first-rate mind, extremely critical and far-seeing, which never loses track of the grand design' [E1]. Einstein remained forever deeply respectful of Bohr's pioneering work. When he was nearly seventy, he wrote 'That this insecure and contradictory foundation [of physics in the years from 1910 to 1920] was sufficient to enable a man of Bohr's unique instinct and tact to discover the major laws of the spectral lines and of the electron shells of the atoms together with their significance for chemistry appeared to me like a miracle--and appears to me as a miracle even today. This is the highest form of musicality in the sphere of thought' [E2].

Einstein and Bohr finally met in the spring of 1920, in Berlin. At that time, they both had already been widely recognized as men of destiny who would leave their indelible marks on the physics of the twentieth century. The impact of their encounter was intense and went well beyond a meeting of minds only. Shortly after his visit, Einstein wrote to Bohr, 'Not often in life has a human being caused me such joy by his mere presence as you did' [E3]. Two days later, he wrote to Ehrenfest, ' Bohr was here, and I am as much in love with him as you are. He is

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Subtle Is the Lord: The Science and the Life of Albert Einstein
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • To the Reader vii
  • Contents (entries in Italics Are Almost Entirely Biographical) xi
  • I- Introductory 3
  • 1- Purpose and Plan 5
  • 2- Relativity Theory and Quantum Theory 26
  • 3 - Portrait of the Physicist as a Young Man 49
  • II- Statistical Physics 53
  • 4- Entropy and Probability 55
  • 5- The Reality of Molecules 79
  • III- Relativity, the Special Theory 109
  • 6- ''subtle is the Lord . . .'' 111
  • 7- The New Kinematics 138
  • 8- The Edge of History 163
  • IV- Relativity, the General Theory 175
  • 9- ''The Happiest Thought of My Life'' 177
  • References 184
  • 10- Herr Professor Einstein 190
  • 11- The Prague Papers 192
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • 12- The Einstein-Grossmann Collaboration 208
  • References 228
  • 13- Field Theories of Gravitation 237
  • 14- The Field Equations of Gravitation 239
  • 15 - The New Dynamics 292
  • V- The Later Journey 297
  • 16- ''The Suddenly Famous Doctor Einstein'' 299
  • 17- Unified Field Theory 325
  • VI - The Quantum Theory 355
  • 18 - Preliminaries 363
  • 19- The Light-Quantum 364
  • 20- Einstein and Specific Heats 389
  • 21- The Photon 402
  • 22- Interlude- The Bks Proposal 416
  • 23- A Loss of Identity 423
  • 24- Einstein as a Transitional Figure 435
  • 25- Einstein''s Response to the New Dynamics 440
  • 26- Einstein''s Vision 460
  • VII- Journey''s End 471
  • 27- The Final Decade 473
  • 28- Epilogue 479
  • VIII- Appendices 481
  • 29- Of Tensors and a Hearing Aid and Many Other Things 483
  • 30- How Einstein Got the Nobel Prize 502
  • 31 - Einstein''s Proposals for the Nobel Prize 518
  • 32- An Einstein Chronology 520
  • Name Index 531
  • Subject Index 539
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