In 1905, an obscure patent clerk in Switzerland wrote four scientific papers, any one of which would have guaranteed his future fame. The clerk’s name was Albert Einstein. His four papers:
- proposed that energy exists in discrete levels called quanta (the photoelectric effect),
- demonstrated that the microscopic quiverings of small particles (Brownian motion) could be explained by the atomic theory,
- proposed changes in the laws of mechanics for bodies traveling close to the speed of light (special relativity), and
- demonstrated the equivalence of mass and energy (E = mc^2).
When the Nobel Prize committee chose to honor Einstein in 1921, they selected his work on the photo-electric effect – work that effectively demonstrates why cell phone signals cannot cause cancer. Einstein argued that electromagnetic waves come in discrete packets of energy called quanta or photons. The energy associated with each quantum or photon is E = h f where “f ” is the frequency and “h” is Planck’s constant. The higher the frequency, the higher the energy associated with the photon.