Thermal Equilibrium Between Radiation and Matter

Foundations of Physics 33 (3):511-528 (2003)
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In 1916, Einstein rederived the blackbody radiation law of Planck that originated the idea of quantized energy one hundred years ago. For this purpose, Einstein introduced the concept of transition probability, which had a profound influence on the development of quantum theory. In this article, we adopt Einstein's assumptions with two exceptions and seek the statistical condition for the thermal equilibrium of matter without referring to the inner details of either statistical thermodynamics or quantum theory. It is shown that the conditions of thermodynamic equilibrium of electromagnetic radiation and the energy balance of thermal radiation by the matter, between any of its two energy-states, not only result in Planck's radiation law and the Bohr frequency condition, but they remarkably yield the law of the statistical thermal equilibrium of matter: the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution. Since the transition probabilities of the modern quantum theory of radiation coincide with their definition in Einstein's theory of blackbody radiation, the presented deduction of the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution is equally valid within the bounds of modern quantum theory. Consequently, within the framework of the fundamental assumptions, the Maxwell–Boltzmann distribution of energy-states is not only a sufficient, but a necessary condition for thermal equilibrium between the matter and radiation



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