The Photoelectric Effect, the Compton Effect
and Blackbody Radiation
"Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory."
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519)
Up to this point in the book there have several proofs of the ether drag theory. But this is not the end of the debate. There are still things to understand and this chapter will deal with three experiments frequently used to prove the photon theory, or at least prove the particle nature of light (light obviously does have particle properties).
The Photoelectric Effect
Einstein did not discover the photoelectric effect, but he did develop the formulas and published a paper on the photoelectric effect in 1905. Heinrich Rudolf Hertz (1847 - 1894) had discovered the photoelectric effect in 1887. Millikan later proved that Einstein's formulas were correct. Both Einstein and Millikan won Nobel Prizes for their work on the photoelectric effect.
The photoelectric effect involved the knocking of electrons off of the surface of metal plates in a vacuum. The classical model for ether predicted that the amplitude or intensity of light would be the determining factor in how many electrons were knocked off of the surface of the metal plate. For example, with ocean waves the amplitude of the waves is what provides the bulk of the energy. The frequency of ocean waves is fairly irrelevant in providing large amounts of energy. This is logical because the amplitude or height of several large ocean waves delivers far more water, and thus more energy, than does a larger number of much smaller waves. Thus, if ether is a wave, then some people concluded that it should be the amplitude of the waves that provided the bulk of the energy, not the frequency.
While it is common to use physical metaphors to prove or disprove a theory, one must be careful when using physical metaphors when dealing with ether, because light is an electromagnetic wave or signal, not the cumulative effect of moving, physical particles. Thus, light is not even necessarily like sound, because light is an electromagnetic "bumping," not a physical "bumping."
What the photoelectric effect proves is that it is the color or frequency of light that provides the energy of light to knock electrons off of metal plates (for a particular type of metal), not the amplitude of the light. For example, for some metals red light will not change the electron equilibrium of the metal plates, but blue light will. The amplitude of the light is of no importance, except that if the frequency of the lightwave is in the correct range, the amplitude of the light will determine how many electrons are released.
Using the logic of the ocean example to prove the photon theory gives the impression that the photoelectric effect proves that light does not have wave properties. This is absurd. It is well known that light has wave properties and particle properties. Furthermore, if it is the frequency of light that causes electrons to get knocked off, then it is the wave properties of light that causes electrons to get knocked off (the term "frequency" and "wave" mean the same thing). The question is, is it the wave nature of ether or is it the wave nature of photons that knocks the electrons off?
What is it about this experiment that can separate the two theories? Physicists have a difficult time explaining how particles can have wave properties (e.g. Young's dual-slit experiment, Poisson's spot, etc.), and suddenly it is the wave properties of photons that are knocking electrons off of metal surfaces, but the wave properties of ether cannot!
Furthermore, if the amplitude of ether waves would be expected to knock the electrons off of the plates, then logically it would be the amplitude of photon waves that would also knock electrons off of the plates. Thus, if the ether theory is eliminated, then why shouldn't the photon theory also be eliminated? There is clearly a double standard in this debate, as there usually is.
But understanding the photoelectric effect, relative to ether or photons, was not fully understood until 1927, when it was discovered that electrons have wave properties. In 1923 or 1924 (depending on what event you are talking about), Louis De Broglie speculated that matter has wave properties. But it was not until 1927 that it was accidentally discovered that electrons have wave properties. I quote: "The wave nature of the electron was experimentally confirmed in 1927 by C.J. Davisson, C.H. Kunsman and L.H. Germer in the United States and by G.P. Thomson (the son of J.J. Thomson) in Aberdeen, Scotland. De Broglie's theory of electron matter waves was later used by Schrödinger, Dirac and others to develop wave mechanics."
Thus we are dealing with light, which has wave properties, and we are dealing with electrons, which also have wave properties. Thus, it is logical that in the unique case of the photoelectric effect the frequency of the light is more important than is the amplitude of light, whether the ether or photon theory is correct.
In other words, if electrons have wave properties, they also have frequency properties. Thus it makes perfect sense that the frequency of light is what can provide enough energy to release excessive amounts of electrons from an atom, because electrons have frequency properties also.
In reality, electrons are constantly in motion and are constantly being released from a metal plate (in the experiment two metal plates are placed close to each other and they are attached via a wire and meter). Eventually equilibrium will be reached when an equal number of electrons are moving back and forth through the vacuum and through the wire. Bombarding one plate with a beam of light with the right frequency (depending on the metal) provides enough energy to release electrons and destroy the equilibrium.
Maxwell, who was one of the foremost supporters of ether in the 19th century, stated emphatically that lightwaves were electromagnetic waves, not physical or material waves, such as the ocean. Thus, why should the scientific community relate the properties of a physical wave (e.g. the ocean) to the properties of an electromagnetic wave (i.e. light), especially when electrons are involved? That is like expecting a radio signal and an arrow to have the same properties!
Nevertheless, there is a physical example of two frequencies joining together to accomplish some task. This is an example of a signal through air, sound, having an affect on a physical object. Light is a signal through ether, and it too can have an affect on a physical object.
It is well known that the pitch or frequency of sound can break certain types of glass. I quote from an internet site:
"First, the type of glass matters. As Louis Bloomfield of How Things Work points out, the glass usually found in windowpanes and cups is relatively soft, so it vibrates poorly and has no strong natural frequencies. If you tap a glass of this sort, all you hear is a dull "thunk" sound. There's nothing with which a high-pitched sound can resonate. Crystal is better suited because it vibrates well and emits a clear tone when you tap it. Lead oxide is added to the glass, making the resulting crystal stronger than ordinary glass. Crystal wine glasses work well for this experiment because, in addition to being crystal, they are thin and delicate, and the tubular shape enhances the sound frequency. The real trick to breaking glass with sound is to match the sound's frequency to that of the glass. You might be able to do this with a scream, but it's easier for a singer with perfect pitch to create the right note, especially if that singer's voice is amplified. Each glass will have a slightly different natural frequency due to minute variations in shape and composition. When the high-pitched sound and the glass resonate, it causes the glass to vibrate. If the singer keeps singing the same note at high volume, eventually the glass will vibrate itself into pieces."
Thus, knowing that ether has frequency properties (as sound does), and knowing the electrons have frequency properties (as crystal does), we can see from the physical world that there should be no surprise that the ether theory can easily explain this phenomenon.
But let us also look at this phenomenon from a different perspective. If we assume that ether exists, then when an electron drops from one quantum level to a lower level, we know that this motion can "bump" or stimulate the ethons surrounding the atom at a specific frequency. In other words, the changing of quantum levels generates a specific frequency wave of light.
Therefore it stands to reason that the reverse is also true. The frequency of light can cause electrons to change quantum levels. In fact, we know that it is true because atoms absorb energy from ethons under the right conditions. Since an electron is freed from an atom when it jumps to a quantum level that doesn't exist for that type of atom, it makes perfect sense that the frequency of light is what dislodges electrons from atoms.
(Note: In stating the above paragraphs, it should be emphasized that it is not known whether the electron drop "bumps" the ether or whether it is the energy in the ether that causes the electron to drop down. In terms of bumping the electron up, it is most certainly the ether that initiates this event.)
In reality, the discovery that electrons have wave properties is just one of the many discoveries that should have reopened the ether-photon debate, but of course it did not.
The Compton Effect
The Compton effect is a little more complicated. It involves the scattering of electrons and the resultant wavelengths associated with the angles beyond the collision.
I quote from the well-known book on light by Ditchburn:
"Compton's original experiments deal with average effects due to large numbers of collisions. They cannot, therefore, give direct evidence concerning the change of momentum in a single collision. ... It is possible to obtain the change of wavelength from a purely wave-theory [ether] by assuming that the scattering is a double process in which the light is absorbed and is then emitted by the moving electron. The change of wavelength is then ascribed to the Doppler effect." [italics, underline added]
In fact, whether the photon or ether theory is correct, the electrons jump off of the metal because of intense localized energy (e.g. heat). What generates this intense energy can be explained by either the photon or ether theory.
To better understand how, let us consider an example from the sports world.
The Pool Table Example
Image a pool table that is one hundred feet long and five feet wide. Suppose there is a straight line of pool balls, each touching the other, on one side of the table on the long axis. This line of pool balls goes from within one foot of the near side of the pool table to within one foot of the far side of the pool table. In other words, the line of pool balls is ninety-eight feet long.
Now image that there are two cue balls on the near end of the table, three inches from the near cushion. One of the cue balls is lined up with the long line of pool balls and the other one has no pool balls between it and the far cushion, almost a hundred feet away. Let us assume that the last of the pool balls in the long line of pool balls is also a cue ball.
Let us assume the cue ball in the long line of pool balls is hit by a man, and the other cue ball is hit by a woman. The cue ball that is hit by the male pool player only goes a few inches, but the last of the pool balls in the long line, which is also a cue ball, hits the far cushion.
Now suppose there is a curtain at the far end of the pool table that is six inches from the far cushion, such that no part of the pool table can be seen (by someone behind the curtain) except for the last six inches of the pool table.
See the graphic on the next page:
Given the same amount of energy from the two pool players, the long line of pool balls will cause a ball to hit the far cushion much more quickly than the cue ball that has to travel the entire distance. And with more energy, given the same hit of the two pool players.
Now let us suppose there is a judge at the far end of the pool table who can only see the last six inches of the pool table because of the curtain. Now suppose that the two pool players each hits their cue ball at such an energy level and with such timing, that both the woman's cue ball and the last of the pool balls in the long line, which is also a cue ball, hit the far cushion at exactly the same time and with the same energy level (i.e. the same velocity in this case).
How can the judge behind the curtain tell which cue ball was hit by the man (i.e. the cue ball that resulted indirectly from the man's hit) or was hit by the woman? The judge cannot tell.
The long line of pool balls (i.e. the "wave") obviously represents the ether theory of light. The single cue ball (i.e. the "particle") hit by the woman represents the photon theory of light.
This simple example contains a very profound message: since the long line of pool balls (the "wave") is composed exclusively of "particles" (i.e. pool balls), the long line of pool balls has "particle" properties identical to the "particle" properties of the cue ball hit by the woman! In fact it is impossible to tell which pool ball is the "wave" cue ball (from the long line of pool balls) or which is the "particle" cue ball (the cue ball that travels the entire distance).
Of course, the actual "bumping" of contiguous ethons is exclusively electromagnetic, not physical, thus the many properties of pool balls and ethons, such as the dispersion properties of pool balls versus light, would not necessarily be the same.
But there is another serious problem with the Compton Effect:
Problems With Determining How Light Travels
If an equal amount of energy is observed resulting from the two pool players (at the far cushion), it is impossible for the judge to distinguish between which energy level resulted from the "wave" of pool balls and which resulted from the "particle" cue ball. But what if the judge could observe the energy applied by both the man and the woman, and the judge could observe how much energy is applied to the far wall?
For example, if both the man and the woman hit their respective balls with an equal amount of energy, then the amount of energy at the far wall will be stronger for the long line of pool balls. Thus, if the judge knows that both cue balls are hit with the same energy level, and if the judge understands that one cue ball travels the entire distance by itself, and the other cue ball hits a long line of pool balls, then the judge, based on his own experiments, can tell which side of the table the long line of pool balls is on!
Likewise, if the judge knows that both energy levels at the far cushion are equal, but the judge knows how much energy, and when, each pool player hit their respective cue ball, then the judge can tell which side of the table has the long line of pool balls.
In short, because the long line of pool balls is more efficient than the single cue ball, that has to travel the entire distance by itself, then knowing how much energy is exerted and how much energy is measured at the end of the table will tell the judge which side of the table has the long line of pool balls.
With this in mind, it should be easy to determine whether light travels by photons or ether. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as it sounds.
With the pool table example, we can do simple experiments to determine, under specific conditions, just how efficient the long line of pool balls is, compared to the woman’s efforts. We don’t have that luxury with light because we cannot calculate how efficient ether would be compared to photons because:
1) If ether exists, we cannot create photons for our experiments, nor can we create an "ether vacuum" for our photons to travel through, or
2) If photons exist, we cannot create ether for our experiments.
In other words, we cannot compare them both side-by-side because both of them do not exist. To elaborate, whether light travels by photons or a chain reaction inside of ether, the energy that hits an atom (such as in the Compton Effect) is an "electromagnetic" energy, not a physical or mechanical energy. It is also a wave, since photons are claimed to have wave properties also. How is it possible to theoretically calculate the efficiency of an electromagnetic jolt from a free flying particle (i.e. a photon) versus an electromagnetic jolt from a chain reaction of charges that travel in the ether? We only have a single final number, but that single final number does not tell us anything because we have no number to compare it to.
As with the photoelectric, there is really nothing about the Compton Effect, except assumptions, that helps us determine whether light is a particle or a signal.
In the photon theory of light, each photon is a small “light quanta,” or particle of light. Thus each photon is discrete in nature. One of the experiments that was felt to demonstrate the discrete nature of light energy was the "blackbody radiation" or "cavity radiation" experiment.
The blackbody radiation experiment consists of a metal box, completely enclosed, but with a small window on it so someone can see inside. The box is slowly heated up and the observer can see the colors in the box change as the box heats up. The term "blackbody" refers to the color of the inside of the metal box, the term "radiation" refers to the light that is emitted as the box heats up.
The phenomenon of blackbody radiation was not discovered by Max Planck, in fact he was not the first person to work on the formulas for blackbody radiation. Many scientists studied the blackbody radiation experiments, but no one was able to come up with a formula that would accurately predict the entire frequency distribution of the blackbody spectrum for any temperature.
The first to have some success at predicting this distribution were John Rayleigh and James Jeans. The Rayleigh-Jeans formula was based on classical theory. The formula worked well for the lower frequencies, but since they used an exponential function, the function did not work well at the higher frequencies. This is because a typical blackbody radiation distribution curve looks like a distorted "bell" curve, thus at the higher frequencies, instead of an exponential rise, the curve drops.
Their formulas were vastly improved by Wilhelm Weir, whose formulas worked well at the higher frequencies, but were not exactly correct at the lower frequencies. Max Planck made a very minor, but profound, change to the Weir formula and was successful at matching the entire frequency distribution.[22-Chapter 4]
But a formula does not explain "why" something happens the way it does. Upon a great deal of further analysis, Planck concluded that the formula worked because light had quantum or discrete energy levels (i.e. he concluded that light frequencies are continuous, but their energy levels are discrete). His discovery was not well received at first. But Einstein took him seriously and came up with the "little box" thought experiment to justify both his own belief in photons (according to some researchers Einstein had disavowed the ether theory in the 1890s) and the discrete nature of light that Planck had discovered.
Einstein pictured in his mind a "little box" that had a small hole in one side, that was placed inside of Planck's big blackbody radiation box. Einstein imagined that individual light particles randomly went into and out of this "little box," thus creating discrete energy levels within the little box. In other words, if there were only a handful of photons in the box, the movement of a single photon into or out of the little box would cause discrete changes in the energy level inside the box (I am simplifying his arguments).
As a purely academic matter, Einstein's "little box" would have to be much smaller than a single hydrogen atom, and perhaps smaller than a single electron, to contain only a few photons. If the "little box" was one cubic centimeter (and the hole was proportionally sized), many, many photons would be going into and out of the little box at any given time. In this case the movement of a single photon would not have been detectable by Planck.
In other words, Planck's crude equipment could not detect the movement of a single photon; it could only detect the average, simultaneous motion of many, many trillions of photons. And even then, it was the formula, not any observed phenomenon by Planck, that pointed towards discrete energy levels. In other words, the discrete nature of photons could not have been the cause of the discrete energy in the experiment because there were far too many photons (assuming the photon theory) for his equipment to detect the result of the motion of individual photons.
To understand more about discrete energy levels, let us continue the pool table example. Let us suppose there is a machine that can hit cue balls. Suppose this machine has a finite number of settings, say 100 different energy settings. In other words, the machine can only hit a cue ball with one of 100 different energy levels.
Let us put this machine behind the cue ball that is lined up with the long line of pool balls. Here is the question: "how many different energy levels will be observed by the judge at the far end of the table if we use the machine to hit the cue ball lined up with the long line of pool balls?" If the machine has 100 settings, the judge will only observe 100 different energy levels of arriving cue balls, even if we do the experiment a million times.
If atoms only generate a finite number of energy levels, meaning if there are only a finite number of possible electron drops from high quantum levels to lower quantum levels, then why would anyone expect that if light travels via ether that light would have a continuous number of different energy levels? It is interesting that light has continuous wavelengths, but there are only a finite number of possible quantum drops.
There are three items that control whether a type of energy is perceived to be continuous or discrete:
1) "energy source" generates the energy (i.e. the electrons in atoms) and transfers the energy to an ...
2) "energy carrier," which carries and transfers the energy (i.e. the photon or ether) until an ...
3) "energy detector or absorber" calculates or absorbs the arriving energy level (this would be a spectroscope in the case of Planck's blackbody radiation experiment).
If all three of these items can handle continuous energy, then the energy detector may observe continuous energy levels (i.e. the formula that describes the resulting distributions may be consistent with continuous functions). If any one of these items can only handle discrete or finite levels of energy, then only discrete energy levels, meaning a finite number of energy levels, will result.
Einstein focused his attention on the "energy carrier," however; it is currently accepted that the "energy source," namely atoms, can only provide discrete energy levels. Thus, even if a photon or an ethon could carry a continuous number of energy levels (and why couldn’t they?), only a discrete or finite number of energy levels would be observed whether light travels by photons or ether.
It is absolutely incredible that blackbody radiation was used as a "proof" of the photon theory when Bohr's model for quantum electron levels (1913) was developed long before the photon theory was accepted in 1924. At the time Bohr came up with his first model, the ether theory was still well entrenched in the scientific world. Thus it should have surprised no one that the "energy source" was a discrete energy source, and thus it should be expected that discrete energy levels would be observed. How can a discrete energy level be converted into a continuum? It can't unless there are averages of many, many individual events.
No matter whether light is photons or ether, what goes on inside of the blackbody box involves many, many photons or many, many signals, thus how does blackbody radiation prove anything about light?
Is it possible a particle can "carry" a continuous number of energy levels? We just saw that with the pool table example. If a human hits one of the cue balls, a continuous number of energy levels will be transferred by either of the cue balls. On the other hand, if a machine with only a finite number of energy levels hits either of the cue balls, then only a discrete number of different energy levels will be transferred by either cue ball.
Let us look at another wave example. Let us consider a guitar being played by a robot. Suppose the robot has the ability to pinch or press the guitar strings anywhere on the "neck" of the guitar (i.e. at a continuous number of points). But suppose the robot can only pluck the strings with any one of 20 different energy levels. In other words, the robot can play a continuous number of different frequencies but only with a finite number of different energy levels.
We now have these items to consider (in parenthesis is a note whether this item can handle a "discrete" or "continuous" number of frequencies and energy levels):
1) The robots "fingers" (discrete energy levels, continuous frequencies),
2) The guitar strings, which is the "energy source" (continuous wave for both, if played by a human),
3) The air, which is the "energy carrier" for sound (continuous wave for both), and
4) Our ears, which is the "energy detector" (continuous wave for both).
Every item in the list can handle a continuous number of different frequencies and energy levels, except for item number one.
But note in this case that it is not the "energy source" (i.e. the strings), nor the "energy carrier," (i.e. the air), nor the "energy detector” (i.e. our ears) that causes the discrete number of different energy levels! All three of these things can handle continuous energy levels and continuous frequencies. It is something related to the experiment (i.e. the robot) that causes the discrete energy levels. Thus we see that there is a fourth thing that can cause discrete energy levels - the physical facilities and environment of the experiment.
Suppose, for example, that atoms (the "energy source") can create continuous energy levels (which they apparently can't) and that photons or ethons can carry continuous energy levels and that the spectroscope can handle continuous energy levels. Is there a possibility that some physical aspect of the blackbody experiment itself caused the discrete energy levels?
With all of this in mind, I quote from an email I received from Dr. Howard C. Hayden, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Connecticut, and former Editor of Galilean Electrodynamics:
"Thermodynamicists looked at the blackbody curve (the data) and noticed the similarity to speed distributions in a gas. They tried to rig up a similar model to explain the blackbody curve. Nothing worked. One model fit the data at the red end of the spectrum but would end up with the ultraviolet catastrophe (infinite power at that end of the spectrum). Another model fit the blue end but failed at the red end. Along came Planck. Textbooks say he invoked E=nhf, but I don't think that's what he was thinking. It is more reasonable, to me at least, that he regarded the cavity as a resonant cavity, in which the diameter would be one wavelength, two wavelengths, etc., corresponding to f, 2f, 3f, etc. The BASIC physics he was using was resonance, and the DERIVED physics was E=nhf, where the f is merely the lowest frequency; more generally it would be E=hf. When Einstein proposed his solution for the photoelectric effect, Planck objected strenuously. The objection is obvious. Planck never meant for the E-M field to be quantized outside the cavity. Bohr seized upon Einstein's idea as a way to explain the hydrogen atom. So, in the picture you paint, the metal in the photoelectric effect is a quantum system, and the hydrogen atom is also. However, there is no reason for the E-M field itself to be quantized. At the very least, the experiments do not prove that it is."