A reactionary hypothesis

Suddenly the smug belief that all basic concepts in natural philosophy were well understood, and only some loose ends remained to be tied up, had suffered a major blow. The idea that natural processes come in 'jumps' and are not continuous was completely foreign to most physicists, including Planck.

Atomicity of matter' was one thing; it was well established since it had been originally proposed by the Greeks. Atomicity of energy' was quite another story. Planck himself was at first reluctant to accept it and was still not quite sure whether his quantum idea was merely a mathematical device or whether he had discovered a fundamental law of Nature. He wrote later that he tried for many years 'to save physics from discontinuous energy levels', but without success. 'The quantum idea obstinately refused to fit into the framework of classical theory'. He would surely have been even more worried had he realised the full implications, which were later destined completely to transform the laws of physics.

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