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The only possible escape from this conclusion, Boltzmann suggested, would be—as he had done in gas theory—to shift to a statistical conception of irreversibility and to introduce a notion of "disordered" radiation that would be the counterpart of molecular chaos. " As a first step toward defining this notion, he introduced the relevant "directly measurable quantities," that is, certain quadratic time-averages, one for the electric moment of the resonator and one for the electric field at the place of the resonator.

The analogy with molecular chaos was transparent enough. In both cases there were two levels of description: the detailed micro-level, which includes uncontrollable features of the model (dynamics of molecular collisions/electrodynamic interaction between resonator and radiation), and the "physical" level of description, which involves only physically meaningful quantities (Maxwell's collision formula/Planck's fundamental equation). In order to deduce the second level of description from the first a special assumption must be made, molecular chaos in one case, natural radiation in the other.

Well aware of these developments, in 1895 Planck proposed that the electromagnetic interaction between matter and radiation could explain both thermodynamic irreversibility and the observed value of the blackbody spectrum. As the archetype of an energy-conserving, irreversible process, he imagined the scattering of a plane electromagnetic wave by a miniature version of a perfect Hertz resonator (small oscillating circuit with neither dissipation nor internal electromotive force). Planck then ― 38 ― proceeded to a quantitative evaluation of this effect.

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