Saturday, 24 March 2012 03:51

Max Planck: Men of Ideas

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Max Planck (1858-1947) was a German physicist. He is generally considered the reluctant founder of quantum mechanics.

Planck posited that electromagnetic energy is emitted only in quantized forms (now called Planck’s action quantum, mathematically, F=hv, where h is Planck’s constant). Einstein later demonstrated that light was emitted in photons (quanta).

Interestingly, Max Planck initially rejected Einstein’s hypothesis that light is emitted in quanta (photons), a hypothesis Einstein based on Phillipp Lenard’s 1902 discovery of the photoelectric effect. Planck thought that accepting Einstein’s hypothesis would discard Maxwell’s electrodynamics and thereby set physics back y centuries.

Planck made other mistakes such as rejecting Bohr, Heisenberg and Pauli’s Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.  It should be noted that he was not alone in rejecting this interpretation of quantum mechanics; Einstein, Schrodinger, and others rejected it.

In the end, Planck came around to accepting a truth that he had hinted at when he suggested, in 1899, that light is emitted in quanta.

Max Planck was caught up in Nazi Germany. To his credit he did not join the Nazi madness and denounce his former Jewish colleagues, such as Einstein. Indeed, he was denounced by the Nazis, and called a white Jew for continuing to teach Einstein’s relativity.

Through astute leadership Plank managed to keep his Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft (now renamed after him) free from the entanglement of Nazi philosophy and total control. His son, Erwin, was allegedly involved in an attempt to overthrow Hitler and was subsequently engineered to die in a horrible auto accident.

Max Planck remained a Christian all his life. He believed in the existence of an all knowing God that human beings cannot understand. He believed that that rational God manifested in the rational laws that seem to operate in the universe. In other words he rejected positivist atheism.

Perhaps, it was his religiosity that led him to not accept Bohr’s interpretation of quantum mechanics, an interpretation, along with Heisenberg’s, that made the universe a random place, not a planned or designed place where rational laws operated.

Clearly, there are many things about the universe that science has not understood. To jump to the conclusion that God exists or does not exist seems speculative. Planck’s intelligent designer God is not persuasive.

If an intelligent God designed this world what is his point in doing so? People are born in pain, live in pain and die in pain; what is the point to their existence?

Pure reason cannot see any meaning and purpose to human existence or why the material universe exists.

The universe exists and that is all there is to it. The universe exists, is there and invites us to study and understand it. As to why it exists, well, only religious speculations could believe that it knows.

Max Plank made one seminal contribution to electromagnetism: his understanding that light is emitted in quanta (now called photons).


Max Planck. Entropy and Temperature of Radiant Heat. (1900)

Max Planck. On the Law of Distribution of Energy in the Normal Spectrum. (1901)

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: (907) 310-8176