[Physical Review Letters] Classical Physics and Blackbody Radiation

Posted: 2022-04-28   Visits: 168

In his celebrated “Lectures on Physics”, volume 1, Richard Feynman wrote: “Thus was the classical theory absolutely incapable of correctly describing the distribution of light from a blackbody, just as it was incapable of correctly describing the specific heats of gases. Physicists went back and forth over this derivation from many different points of view, and there is no escape. This is the prediction of classical physics … is called Rayleigh’s law … and is obviously absurd.”

This Feynman statement on a central problem in the history of physics, which is at the origin of one of main scientific revolutions of the mankind, is incorrect. As shown in a recent collaborated study jointly finished by researchers form Group for Complex Systems, Xiamen University, and Center for Nonlinear and Complex Systems, University of Insubria, the Rayleigh’s law, also termed ultraviolet catastrophe, is not a consequence of classical mechanics. It is instead a consequence of an unjustified assumption. Indeed, it is shown that a correct treatment of classical equations does not lead to any absurd result. On the contrary it is compatible with the experimental verified, Stefan-Boltzmann law. This result requires a reconsideration of the role of classical physics for the understanding of quantum mechanics.

The study, entitled “Classical Physics and Blackbody Radiation”, was published in Physical Review Letters, a prestigious journal for physics research (Physical Review Letters 128, 134101, 2022; DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.134101).