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C O U R S E 
Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity
Larry Lagerstrom, Stanford University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
The Annus Mirabilis Papers of 1905
Notes taken on May 17, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
in 1905, Einstein, a 26-year-old patent clerk, wrote five papers which changed how humanity views reality
completely unexpected
he certainly was a good physics student but up to this point had done nothing extraordinary
the five papers
1. March 1905: light quantum
"On a Heuristic Viewpoint Concerning the Production and Transformation of Light"
introduced the idea of the light quantum
seminal paper in quantum mechanics
dominated much of physics throughout the 20th century
a heuristic proposal
was a particle theory of light
went against the well established by this time 100 years previously when Thomas Young set forth the modern wave theory of light
but the wave theory of light dealt with light as it was traveling
shown that some experimental results could be explained that otherwise could not be explained
2. April 1905: size of molecules
"A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions"
became his doctoral dissertation
the most ordinary, mundane paper
demonstrated the size of sugar molecules
became the most cited paper
not revolutionary but certainly influential
3. May 1905: existence of atoms
"Über die von der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Wärme geforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flüssigkeiten suspendierten Teilchen"
explained a phenomenon known as Brownian Motion
particles jiggle around in water
early observes might have some kind of vital force in them
Brown showed that you can put almost any substance in water and it will be bumped around
showed you could track the motion of the particles
developed the theory that explained the "random walk" of these motions
made experiences which enabled scientists to verify this
there was still much skepticism about the talk of atoms
backed up later by experiments
Oswald was a skeptic of atoms (the professor whom Einstein's father wrote to)
Einstein's paper changed what he believed was true regarding this topic
4. June 1905: special theory of relativity
"The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies"
Einstein had friend at patent office
talked about latest physics problems
one of these talks made him realize that time is suspect
Einstein was working at the patent office probably dealing with patents which had to do with time, e.g. with telegraph signaling systems
the synchronization of clocks was an important issue
5. September 1905: E=mc²
"Ist die Trägheit eines Körpers von seinem Energieinhalt abhängig?"
an addendum to the June 1905 paper
essential the addition was E=mc²
energy = mass x speed of light squared
one has to remember that all five of these papers were written by an unknown, 26-year-old patent clerk
each one had profound implications of how we understand reality
did this in a time when his life was in turmoil
but he had been thinking of these issues certainly since the early 1890s
a mixed reception
there were some early experimental results that showed it was false