New study reveals contribution of little known Austrian physicist, Friedrich Hasenöhrl, to famous Einstein equation

January 25, 2013

Two American physicists outline the role played by Austrian physicist Friedrich Hasenöhrl in establishing the proportionality between the energy (E) of a quantity of matter with its mass (m) in a cavity filled with radiation. In a paper about to be published in EPJ H, Stephen Boughn from Haverford College in Pensylvannia and Tony Rothman from Princeton University in New Jersey argue how Hasenöhrl's work, for which he now receives little credit, may have contributed to the famous equation E=mc2.

According to science philosopher Thomas Kuhn, the nature of scientific progress occurs through paradigm shifts, which depend on the cultural and historical circumstances of groups of scientists. Concurring with this idea, the authors believe the notion that mass and energy should be related did not originate solely with Hasenöhrl. Nor did it suddenly emerge in 1905, when Einstein published his paper, as popular mythology would have it.

Given the lack of recognition for Hasenöhrl's contribution, the authors examined the Austrian physicist's original work on blackbody radiation in a with perfectly reflective walls. This study seeks to identify the blackbody's mass changes when the cavity is moving relative to the observer.

They then explored the reason why the Austrian physicist arrived at an energy/mass correlation with the wrong factor, namely at the equation: E = (3/8) mc2. Hasenöhrl's error, they believe, stems from failing to account for the mass lost by the blackbody while radiating.

Before Hasenöhrl focused on cavity radiation, other , including French mathematician Henri Poincaré and German physicist Max Abraham, showed the existence of an associated with . In 1905, Einstein gave the correct relationship between inertial and electromagnetic energy, E=mc2. Nevertheless, it was not until 1911 that German physicist Max von Laue generalised it to include all forms of energy.

Explore further: Testing Einstein's E=mc2 in outer space

More information: Boughn S., Rothman T. (2013), Hasenöhrl and the Equivalence of Mass and Energy, European Physical Journal H, DOI: 10.1140/epjh/e2012-30061-5

Related Stories

Testing Einstein's E=mc2 in outer space

January 4, 2013

(—University of Arizona physicist Andrei Lebed has stirred the physics community with an intriguing idea yet to be tested experimentally: The world's most iconic equation, Albert Einstein's E=mc2, may be correct ...

Mass is energy

November 21, 2011

Some say that the reason you can't travel faster than light is that your mass will increase as your speed approaches light speed – so, regardless of how much energy your star drive can generate, you reach a point where ...

Roll over Einstein: Law of physics challenged (Update 3)

September 22, 2011

One of the very pillars of physics and Einstein's theory of relativity - that nothing can go faster than the speed of light - was rocked Thursday by new findings from one of the world's foremost laboratories.

Recommended for you

Probe for nanofibers has atom-scale sensitivity

January 20, 2017

Optical fibers are the backbone of modern communications, shuttling information from A to B through thin glass filaments as pulses of light. They are used extensively in telecommunications, allowing information to travel ...

Magnetic recording with light and no heat on garnet

January 19, 2017

A strong, short light pulse can record data on a magnetic layer of yttrium iron garnet doped with Co-ions. This was discovered by researchers from Radboud University in the Netherlands and Bialystok University in Poland. ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Jan 25, 2013
Interesting. Is there a rationale for the multiplier (3/8) to his equation? What is beautiful about Einstein's formulation is that it falls out naturally as a consequence of "special relativity" and electromagnetic theory.
1.5 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
Just one quick observation on Einstein's theory. The theory does not say that energy and matter are interchangeable; it says that energy and matter are one and the same. Matter is but the manifestation of energy moving so fast that the force fields it creates (electron shells) give the illusion of matter. In fact, matter does not exist; but is merely an illusion.
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2013
In dense aether model every wave of vacuum slows down the spreading of another waves in such a way, the undulating area of vacuum is behaving like blob of sparse matter. This effect is analogous to the thickening of soap foam with deform or shaking. The proportionality between energy density and matter density leads to the Schrodinger equation, which is the wave equation of string (red line), the mass density of which (blue line) is proportional to energy density in each space and time interval. You can play with this behaviour at the VML applet here
1 / 5 (4) Jan 25, 2013
The same effect can be observed even at the undulating water surface. The introduction of energy into it makes the surface undulating and deformed, which exposes more surface area to another waves, which are slowed down during spreading through the place deformed. It's because every surface wave exposes the tiny density fluctuations (Brownian noise) of its environment, which are scattering the another waves, which are spreading through this undulating place occasionaly. In vacuum these tiny density fluctuations correspond the Higgs field, which brings the material density into every wave in this way. The Higgs field therefore connects the E=mc^2 equation of general relativity with Schrodinger equation of quantum mechanics.
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 25, 2013
The 3 in the 3/8 represents the holy trinity, and the 8 comes from the fact that 8 = 2**3 which is the (holy trinity - Christ) raised to the exponent of the holy trinity.

Why subtract Christ? Because he died for our sins, on the cross.

"Is there a rationale for the multiplier (3/8) to his equation?" - sim

It is all quite obvious when you think about it.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
In fact, matter does not exist; but is merely an illusion.
With the same logic I can say, the energy doesn't exist, only matter in motion. Not only this symmetry indicates a conceptual bias in the above stance, it even doesn't brings any testable predictions, so it's unfalsifiable and essentially useless.
Is there a rationale for the multiplier (3/8) to his equation?
It's explained in the article above: it's a mass factor relevant for energy wave trapped inside of resonator at the moment, when the energy is allowed to escape from it.
1 / 5 (3) Jan 25, 2013
It is all quite obvious when you think about it.
This is reddit style kidding, which only enables to twaddle about subject for people, who actually have nothing relevant to say about it. It bored twaddling, which gets quite boring if you're forced to read it whole day in Internet discussions.
5 / 5 (1) Jan 25, 2013
Here you go again "water ripples" or should I say mrs. Waterripples with your current (not for long) nick.
You think using again and again the same arguments from your brain full of aether is relevant?
If someone is boring it's you. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2013
Why to change arguments or explanations, until they work well (and they've no alternative anyway)?
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2013
The article preprint. The E=mc^2 can be derived from momentum conservation easily. Hasenohrl was famous aetherist of his time, who influenced Erwin Schrodinger during his study at Vienna university in 1906 - 1910.
3.7 / 5 (3) Jan 26, 2013
The mass-energy relation is a simple consequence of relativistic kinematics. It has nothing to do with electromagnetic theory, while Hasenöhrl's work could be said to do so superficially by way of the statistical physics of the electromagnetic field. Using thermodynamics it is easy to generalize it from kinetic energy to all sorts of energy.

The article contains all sorts of fail. For example describing science by way of philosophy. Not defineable (what is a "paradigm shift" testably?) but seen to be erroneous anyway, since science evolution is gradualistic as all evolution. It is especially hilarious when it argues for a lesser progress than the 'shift' of individual accomplishment but "circumstances of groups".

As for science denialists, it is tragic that the very science that replaced aether as an idea by admitting a conclusive test, as surely that flat Earth has been replaced, is spit on and trampled by inane crackpots! Poor Einstein's memory, desecrated by fools.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2013
what is a "paradigm shift" testably?
Apparently the history of science and thinking in historical context is somewhat ungraspable subject for you. For example the switch from sparse aether model into relativity at the beginning of last century is such a paradigm shift. The return into dense aether model will be another one. It can be tested with inquiries like this one or with number/impact of publications dedicated to particular topic.
it argues for a lesser progress than the 'shift' of individual accomplishment but "circumstances of groups"
Of course it is: until the wide group of scientists will not adopt the paradigm shift promoted with individuals, no progress can be seen. It can be illustrated nicely not only with spreading of dense aether paradigm, but with attitude toward cold fusion and many other fundamental findings.
3 / 5 (2) Jan 27, 2013 is tragic that the very science that replaced aether as an idea by admitting a conclusive test..
You mean crippled? I explained here many times, that the (null result of) Michelson-Morley experiment is orthogonal to the dense aether model, as this model results into it too. This test disproved the sparse aether concept instead, which is unfortunately irrelevant not only to the luminiferous aether model, but even to the transverse character of light in general. Sparse aether model with density few grams per cubic kilometers cannot serve as an environment for transverse light wave spreading, as every child may imagine easily. Why the physicists cannot realize it? Can they even grasp something, which is not a subject of mechanical algebraic operations? They do act like computers in my eyes.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.