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A Quantum Theory of Optical Dispersion

Darwin, C. G. (1923) A Quantum Theory of Optical Dispersion. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 9 (1). pp. 25-30. ISSN 0027-8424.

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When a theory is framed trying to explain a discrepant system of facts, it is a necessary process of thought to take some branch of the theory as more completely true than the rest, and to adjust the remaining parts in such a way that they will fit in with this base, though they may still conflict with one another. This has certainly been true of the quantum theory; the speculations connected with it have as their base the law of the conservation of energy. Now a critical examination of fundamentals does not by any means justify this faith. It is of course a fact of observation that in the gross energy is conserved, but this only means an averaged energy; and as pure dynamics has failed to explain many atomic phenomena there seems no reason to maintain the exact conservation of energy, which is only one of the consequences of the dynamical equations. Indeed it is hardly too much to say that had the photoelectric effect been discovered a century ago, it is probable that no one would ever have suggested that the status of the first law of thermodynamics was in any way different from that of the second. On the other hand, Bohr's theory, and especially Sommerfeld's extension of it, have given great encouragement to the belief that in dynamics lay the way to the complete truth, so that in consequence of the triumphs of that theory there has been little thought in other directions. Another impediment is that our whole ideas are saturated with the principles of energy, so that denying it leaves hardly any foundation from which to start.

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Additional Information:Copyright ©1923 by the National Academy of Sciences. Communicated, December 1, 1922.
Issue or Number:1
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:DARpnas23
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:11240
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Deposited On:27 Jul 2008 06:16
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 00:17

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