art & culture
  Carson Pirie Scott Building
1899-1904 Louis Sullivan Carson Pirie Scott Building

Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2
Armory Show Marcel Duchamp Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2

1913 Wassily Kandinsky Composition VI

Unique Forms of Continuity in Space
1913 Umberto Boccioni Unique Forms of Continuity in Space

  The Foundations of the New Physics

1908 - Henry Ford Model T Ford1912 - Ocean liner The twentieth century began with a flurry of innovations such as the airplane, the mass-produced automobile, and transatlantic radio communication. They transformed the world, but the changes sweeping over physics at the same time were far more radical. Those brought about not just different lifestyles, but new ways of thinking.

Albert Einstein Modern physics grew out of classical physics and rests on three pillars: the quantum theory, which describes atoms and their nuclei, Special Relativity, which deals with the relationship between space and time, and General Relativity, which explains gravity. The latter two were the sole creations of Albert Einstein (right) and even the former received a crucial early contribution from him.

Einstein's miracle year came in 1905 when he was 26 years old and working as a patent examiner in Bern, Switzerland. In March he submitted a paper in which he proposed that light, which classical physics treats as a wave phenomenon, could also be thought of as consisting of discrete bits of energy he called quanta. The implied wave/particle duality of light became the cornerstone of the new quantum theory. In May, Einstein explained the erratic motion of pollen suspended in water as due to the jostling of innumerable invisible molecules. When this theory was verified in the laboratory, even the most skeptical of physicists were forced to accept atoms, which until then had been mere conjecture, as real, material objects.

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