Page:Über einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen Gesichtspunkt.pdf/1

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6. On a Heuristic Point of View about the Creation and Conversion of Light

Maxwell's theory of electromagnetic processes in so-called empty space differs in a profound, essential way from the current theoretical models of gases and other matter. On the one hand, we consider the state of a material body to be determined completely by the positions and velocities of a finite number of atoms and electrons, albeit a very large number. By contrast, the electromagnetic state of a region of space is described by continuous functions and, hence, cannot be determined exactly by any finite number of variables. Thus, according to Maxwell's theory, the energy of purely electromagnetic phenomena (such as light) should be represented by a continuous function of space. By contrast, the energy of a material body should be represented by a discrete sum over the atoms and electrons; hence, the energy of a material body cannot be divided into arbitrarily many, arbitrarily small components. However, according to Maxwell's theory (or, indeed, any wave theory), the energy of a light wave emitted from a point source is distributed continuously over an ever larger volume.

The wave theory of light with its continuous spatial functions has proven to be an excellent model of purely optical phenomena and presumably will never be replaced by another theory. Nevertheless, we should consider that optical experiments observe only time-averaged values, rather than instantaneous values. Hence, despite the perfect agreement of Maxwell's theory with