Max Planck

German theoretical physicist
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
In the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.
New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck (23 April 1858 – 4 October 1947) is the originator of modern quantum theories and one of the most important German physicists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, winning the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.

Contents

QuotesEdit

  • Als Physiker, der sein ganzes Leben der nüchternen Wissenschaft, der Erforschung der Materie widmete, bin ich sicher von dem Verdacht frei, für einen Schwarmgeist gehalten zu werden. Und so sage ich nach meinen Erforschungen des Atoms dieses: Es gibt keine Materie an sich. Alle Materie entsteht und besteht nur durch eine Kraft, welche die Atomteilchen in Schwingung bringt und sie zum winzigsten Sonnensystem des Alls zusammenhält. Da es im ganzen Weltall aber weder eine intelligente Kraft noch eine ewige Kraft gibt—es ist der Menschheit nicht gelungen, das heißersehnte Perpetuum mobile zu erfinden—so müssen wir hinter dieser Kraft einen bewußten intelligenten Geist annehmen. Dieser Geist ist der Urgrund aller Materie.
As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much: There is no matter as such! All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together. . . . We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind. This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
Das Wesen der Materie (The Nature of Matter), a 1944 speech in Florence, Italy. Source: Archiv zur Geschichte der Max‑Planck‑Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11 Planck, Nr. 1797
  • Farsighted theologians are now working to mine the eternal metal from the teachings of Jesus and to forge it for all time.
    • From Planck to Study (2 December 1913), (Autog. I/383, SPK); as quoted in The Dilemmas of an Upright Man : Max Planck As Spokesman for German Science (1986) by J. L. Heilbron, p. 67
  • I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard matter as derivative from consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness. Everything that we talk about, everything that we regard as existing, postulates consciousness.
    • As quoted in The Observer (25 January 1931)
  • We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up to now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.
    • The Universe in the Light of Modern Physics (1931)
  • Anybody who has been seriously engaged in scientific work of any kind realizes that over the entrance to the gates of the temple of science are written the words: Ye must have faith. It is a quality which the scientist cannot dispense with.
    • Where Is Science Going? (1932)
  • It is not the possession of truth, but the success which attends the seeking after it, that enriches the seeker and brings happiness to him.
    • Where Is Science Going? (1932)
  • Again and again the imaginary plan on which one attempts to build up that order breaks down and then we must try another. This imaginative vision and faith in the ultimate success are indispensable. The pure rationalist has no place here.
    • Where Is Science Going? (1932)
  • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are part of nature and therefore part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.
    • Where is Science Going? (1932)
    • Variants:
    • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature. And that is because, in the last analysis, we ourselves are a part of the mystery that we are trying to solve.
    • Science cannot solve the ultimate mystery of nature, for in the final analysis we ourselves are part of the mystery we are trying to solve.
  • New scientific ideas never spring from a communal body, however organized, but rather from the head of an individually inspired researcher who struggles with his problems in lonely thought and unites all his thought on one single point which is his whole world for the moment.
    • Address on the 25th anniversary of the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gesellschaft (January 1936), as quoted in Surviving the Swastika : Scientific Research in Nazi Germany (1993) ISBN 0-19-507010-0
  • Eine neue wissenschaftliche Wahrheit pflegt sich nicht in der Weise durchzusetzen, daß ihre Gegner überzeugt werden und sich als belehrt erklären, sondern vielmehr dadurch, daß ihre Gegner allmählich aussterben und daß die heranwachsende Generation von vornherein mit der Wahrheit vertraut gemacht ist.
    • A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
      • Wissenschaftliche Selbstbiographie. Mit einem Bildnis und der von Max von Laue gehaltenen Traueransprache. Johann Ambrosius Barth Verlag (Leipzig 1948), p. 22, as translated in Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, trans. F. Gaynor (New York, 1949), pp. 33–34 (as cited in T. S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions).
    • Paraphrased variants:
    • Die Wahrheit triumphiert nie, ihre Gegner sterben nur aus.
      • Truth never triumphs — its opponents just die out.
    • Science advances one funeral at a time.
  • Under these conditions it is no wonder, that the movement of atheists, which declares religion to be just a deliberate illusion, invented by power-seeking priests, and which has for the pious belief in a higher Power nothing but words of mockery, eagerly makes use of progressive scientific knowledge and in a presumed unity with it, expands in an ever faster pace its disintegrating action on all nations of the earth and on all social levels. I do not need to explain in any more detail that after its victory not only all the most precious treasures of our culture would vanish, but — which is even worse — also any prospects at a better future.
    • Religion und Naturwissenschaft (1958)
  • It [science] has as its highest principle and most coveted aim the solution of the problem to condense all natural phenomena which have been observed and are still to be observed into one simple principle, that allows the computation of past and more especially of future processes from present ones. ...Amid the more or less general laws which mark the achievements of physical science during the course of the last centuries, the principle of least action is perhaps that which, as regards form and content, may claim to come nearest to that ideal final aim of theoretical research.
    • As quoted by Morris Kline, Mathematics and the Physical World (1959) Ch. 25: From Calculus to Cosmic Planning, pp. 441-442.
  • Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination.
    • As quoted in Advances in Biochemical Psychopharmacology, Vol. 25 (1980), p. 3
  • That God existed before there were human beings on Earth, that He holds the entire world, believers and non-believers, in His omnipotent hand for eternity, and that He will remain enthroned on a level inaccessible to human comprehension long after the Earth and everything that is on it has gone to ruins; those who profess this faith and who, inspired by it, in veneration and complete confidence, feel secure from the dangers of life under protection of the Almighty, only those may number themselves among the truly religious.
    • As quoted in God’s Laughter (1992) by Gerhard Staguhn, p. 152

Religion and Natural Science (1937)Edit

 
Only that definite and clear instruction which we gain can form a direct inner link to God.
This instruction alone is able to give us the inner firmness and lasting peace of mind which must be regarded as the highest boon in life.
Lecture about the relationship between religion and science. Originally entitled Religion und Naturwissenschaft. Complete translation into English found in Max Planck: Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968)
 
Religion and natural science are fighting a joint battle in an incessant, never relaxing crusade against scepticism and against dogmatism, against disbelief and against superstition, and the rallying cry in this crusade has always been, and always will be: "On to God!"
  • Both religion and science require a belief in God. For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations… To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
    • Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers as translated by F. Gaynor (1949), p. 184
    • Variant translations:
    • Both religion and science need for their activities the belief in God, and moreover God stands for the former in the beginning, and for the latter at the end of the whole thinking. For the former, God represents the basis, for the latter – the crown of any reasoning concerning the world-view.
    • While both religion and natural science require a belief in God for their activities, to the former He is the starting point, to the latter the goal of every thought process. To the former He is the foundation, to the latter the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.
      • Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers (1968 edition)
  • Natural science wants man to learn, religion wants him to act.
  • Long and tedious reflection cannot enable us to shape our decisions and attitudes properly; only that definite and clear instruction which we gain can form a direct inner link to God. This instruction alone is able to give us the inner firmness and lasting peace of mind which must be regarded as the highest boon in life. And if we ascribe to God, in addition to His omnipotence and omniscience, also the attributes of goodness and love, recourse to Him produces an increased feeling of safety and happiness in the human being thirsting for solace. Against this conception not even the slightest objection can be raised from the point of natural science, for as we pointed it out before, questions of ethics are entirely outside of its realm.
  • No matter where and how far we look, nowhere do we find a contradiction between religion and natural science. On the contrary, we find a complete concordance in the very points of decisive importance. Religion and natural science do not exclude each other, as many contemporaries of ours would believe or fear. They mutually supplement and condition each other. The most immediate proof of the compatibility of religion and natural science, even under the most thorough critical scrutiny, is the historical fact that the very greatest natural scientists of all times — men such as Kepler, Newton, Leibniz — were permeated by a most profound religious attitude.


MisattributedEdit

  • No burden is so heavy for a man to bear as a succession of happy days.
    • Max Müller, as quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899) by James Wood

Quotes about PlanckEdit

 
A man to whom it has been given to bless the world with a great creative idea has no need for the praise of posterity. His very achievement has already conferred a higher boon upon him. ~ Albert Einstein
 
It was Planck's law of radiation that yielded the first exact determination—independent of other assumptions—of the absolute magnitudes of atoms. More than that, he showed convincingly that in addition to the atomistic structure of matter there is a kind of atomistic structure to energy, governed by the universal constant h, which was introduced by Planck. ~ Albert Einstein
  • There is no particular mystery about mathematical analysis; its only distinguishing feature is that it is more trustworthy, more precise, and permits us to proceed farther and along safer lines.
    Consider, for example, the well-known change of colour from red to white displayed by the light radiated through an aperture made in a heated enclosure, as the temperature increases. From this elementary fact of observation Planck, thanks to mathematical analysis, was able to deduce the existence of light quanta and thence the possibility that all processes of change were discontinuous, and that a body could only rotate with definite speeds. Obviously, commonplace reasoning unaided by mathematics would never have led us even to suspect these extraordinary results.
  • Inasmuch as both Rayleigh's and Wien's laws of radiation, though incorrect, appear to express facts correctly at opposite limits of temperature and frequency, we may presume that the correct law must have an intermediary form, passing over into Rayleigh's when [temperature] T is large and [frequency] ν small, and into Wein's when the reverse situation... Planck, guided by these considerations, devised a new theory of radiation which he called the "Quantum Theory." From this theory Planck was able to derive a radiation law which satisfied Wien's relation, ...the displacement law [when the temperature is increased, intensities of all the frequencies increase, while the radiation of maximum intensity is directly proportional to the absolute temperature] and Stefan's law, and which was in excellent agreement with experimental measurements at all temperatures.
    • A. D'Abro, The Rise of the New Physics, Its Mathematical and Physical Theories (1939) Vol. 2. p. 457
  • A man to whom it has been given to bless the world with a great creative idea has no need for the praise of posterity. His very achievement has already conferred a higher boon upon him.
  • It was Planck's law of radiation that yielded the first exact determination—independent of other assumptions—of the absolute magnitudes of atoms. More than that, he showed convincingly that in addition to the atomistic structure of matter there is a kind of atomistic structure to energy, governed by the universal constant h, which was introduced by Planck. This discovery became the basis of all twentieth-century research in physics and has almost entirely conditioned its development ever since. Without this discovery it would not have been possible to establish a workable theory of molecules and atoms and the energy processes that govern their transformations. Moreover, it has shattered the whole framework of classical mechanics and electrodynamics and set science a fresh task: that of finding a new conceptual basis for all of physics.
  • It is clear, however, that the distinguishing mark of the whole development of theoretical chemistry and physics is the elimination of the anthropomorphic elements, especially specific sense-impressions, from the concepts. This process is called by Prof. M. Planck the objectification of the physical system.
  • In early physical systems we have optics dealing with phenomena perceived by the eye; acoustics treating of auditory percepts, and so on. The subjective concepts of "tone" and "colour" have now been replaced by the objectified concepts of frequency of vibration; and wave-length. The object of this process of elimination is, according to Planck, the striving towards a unification of the whole theoretical system, so that it shall be equally significant for all intelligent beings.
  • Planck ...devised his quanta theory, according to which the exchange of energy between the matter and the ether—or rather between ordinary matter and the small resonators whose vibrations furnish the light of incandescent matter—can take place only intermittently. A resonator can not gain energy or lose it in a continuous manner. It can not gain a fraction of a quantum; it must acquire a whole quantum or none at all.
  • Planck was interested in physics, so he sought out the advice of Philipp von Jolly of the University of Munich, which he was to enter. Jolly... told Planck that "in this field, almost everything is already discovered, and all that remains is to fill a few unimportant holes." ...Planck replied that he didn't wish to discover new things, only to understand what was already known in the field.
    • James D. Stein, Cosmic Numbers: The Numbers that Define Our Universe (2011)
  • So by December 1900 Planck had changed everything in physics and chemistry. The only problem was he didn’t realize it. [...] Although he didn’t realize it, Planck had removed a foundation stone from the edifice of classical physics; it would take another twenty-five years for the entire structure to collapse. However, the immediate reaction was ... nothing. For the next five years neither Planck nor any of the great physicists of the era took up the meaning and extension of Planck’s ideas.
    • Douglas A. Stone, Einstein and the Quantum: The Quest of the Valiant Swabian (2013), Chapter 1: "An Act of Desperation"
  • Planck had slipped the quantum of action into his not fully consistent reasoning. He had, without wholly realizing it, introduced an essential element of discreteness into the description of nature, an element alien to the theories of mechanics and electromagnetism as they then existed. To the young Einstein, however, the imperfections were all too clear... he was hit with a new paradox: Planck was deriving empirically correct equations from hypotheses that contradicted the principles of physics...

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