Avogadro's Hypothesis and the Most Wanted Hidden Assumption of Physics: The Atomos Paradigm

On the 200th anniversary of Avogadro's Molecule Hypothesis 2011: Avogadro's molecules, Dalton's atoms and the division process during chemical reactions. Avogadro's Hypothesis new interpreted and commented as molecular cell division.
By Mario Wingert, 2010. 


„Young academic scientists have the best chance of succeeding if they impress older scientists with technically sweet solutions... To do the opposite - to think deeply and independently and try to formulate one's own ideas - is a poor strategy for success. Physics thus finds itself unable to solve its key problems."

„The one thing everyone who cares about fundamental physics seems to agree on is that new ideas are needed... We are missing something big... Clearly, someone has to... recognize a wrong assumption we have all been making...“

Lee Smolin: The Trouble with Physics, 2006

Dalton's atom concept (1803/1810) and Avogadro's molecule hypothesis (1811) are still regarded today, two hundred years later, as fundamental pillars of the atomic hypothesis. The atomic hypothesis is based on the natural-philosophical assumption that the physical properties of nature can ultimately be reduced to smallest, indivisible building blocks of matter and forces acting between them. This assumption (atomos - the indivisible) is already 2500 years old and goes back to Democritus. It was revived in 1810 by Dalton for physical chemistry, but was only generally accepted in physics one hundred years later, around 1910. This was mainly due to the work of Perrin and Einstein, who were able to show that matter must have a molecular structure. The atomic concept (the existence of indivisible units) was not really proven by this, but molecular theory in chemistry seemed to be so firmly connected with the atomic hypothesis that it was almost perceived as proof of the existence of atoms.

A further 100 years later, in 2010, the atom concept dominates our world view. The atomic hypothesis now seems so certain and experimentally justified that it plays the role of a paradigm that can apparently hardly be called into question. In general, a paradigm leads to physical ideas, models and theories being designed and interpreted in such a way that they are compatible with this paradigm. Thus, the kinetic theory of heat, molecular theory and quantum mechanics were also made to fit into this framework, although they are not really compatible with the atomos hypothesis, as Avogadro's original hypothesis and double-slit experiments with single atoms and particles show. Although it became already clear at the end of the 19th century that atoms are actually divisible (before Perrin's and Einstein's work), the atomic hypothesis was not abandoned. Instead, it was repeatedly transferred to new, smaller and now hopefully final "atoms", now called "elementary particles". 'Elementary' means again indivisibility. For example, electrons and photons are considered indivisible, in some cases even the atom, especially in the double-slit experiment.

In fact, however, this experiment proves that the paradigm of indivisibility cannot apply to the elementary structures of nature and reality, because it shows an interference condition which states that the postulated indivisible particles or spatially concentrated portions of energy (both called particles) theoretically and practically pass through both openings at the same time; in doing so, they must divide - and in the course of local absorption, merge again with each other. Due to the holistic absorption, this division process can no longer be understood in the sense of mechanics and the atomic hypothesis. If one takes this interference condition physically seriously, the atomic hypothesis demonstrably fails in the experiment.

Although the experiment clearly requires a physical explanation in which "atoms" and "elementary particles" must divide holistically (which requires a completely new physics), such an explanation and modelling of the double-slit experiment is deliberately not only not given by the quantum mechanical interpretation, but excluded in principle as a possible solution - precisely because a physical explanation of the experiment is neither possible with the underlying atomic particle model, nor with the wave model, without getting into deep contradictions. Normally we would conclude from the experiment that both models of the constitution of reality fail and must be wrong at some crucial point. But the quantum mechanical interpretation insists that we can and must continue to use them. This is based on the unspoken assumption that these models quite correctly describe the classical "macroscopic" world. Only in smaller scales, on the "submicroscopic" level of nature, would they fail. At this level they no longer have any claim to reality, but can be used alternately and exclusively as mathematical models to describe quantum phenomena. But any attempt to develop a new reality model is considered futile and unnecessary, since their inventors considered quantum mechanics to be a complete and exhaustive theory - even if it can no longer make statements about the true constitution of reality. Nevertheless, the atomistic particle concept is still being diligently used.

This view and treatment of the deepest problem in theoretical physics cannot be justified either experimentally or theoretically; it is therefore only an interpretation that avoids the true problem and ultimately tries to save the prevailing atomic paradigm, at least for the 'macroscopic' world. It was given in 1927 by Bohr, Heisenberg and Born and known as the quantum mechanical interpretation of quantum theory. To be able to hold the atomic and elementary particle hypothesis, mechanics and all other theories and models of classical physics against experimental evidence, it arranges with the wave/ quantum paradox and thus basically dispense with physical reality models that are free of contradictions.

The stagnation and crisis of contemporary theoretical physics is thus caused on the one hand by the unfounded adherence to the atomic and elementary particle hypothesis and on the other by the declared renunciation of cognition by quantum mechanics - an attitude that is extremely alien to a natural science. Since Bohr's attitude was tolerated and accepted almost without resistance (!) by the vast majority of physicists since 1927, it became a very special convention - a socially agreed barrier to cognition. No wonder Einstein became the sharpest critic of this "epistemological" claim.

Due to the deep conceptual problems of modern physics, of which many physicists are not at all aware, it is of vital interest for physicists and chemists, but also for biologists, to re-examine the development of their most important concepts on the basis of original contributions - and to question them critically and creatively in the light of modern knowledge. As an example, Avogadro's molecule hypothesis in the original is presented here. This also applies to Maxwell's work on kinetic heat theory, the dynamics of the electromagnetic field and Einstein's light quantum hypothesis. Especially in the context of the last two theories it becomes clear that Einstein had postulated with the quantum hypothesis of light an as yet unknown structure of the electromagnetic field, which should consist of qualitatively holistic elements similar to the molecular theory of matter. However, these elementary structures of the electromagnetic field, called light quanta, would have to be both a whole and divisible - a model making problem that even Einstein could not solve. Such a constitution cannot be illustrated, let alone understood, by the body concept of mechanics or by the atomic and elementary particle hypothesis.

So if the atomic and elementary particle hypothesis fails experimentally at the double-slit and has to be replaced by physically holistic division and fusion processes, such processes must characterize not only the properties of fields but also of matter. And so it is, as Avogadro's original hypothesis shows. Avogadro had noticed a major deficiency in Dalton's atomic concept - it was not compatible with the chemical experiments. Avogadro had recognized that Dalton's atoms must divide during chemical reactions in order to be able to satisfy the experimentally determined volume equation of Gay-Lussac. Since this contradicts the atom concept, Avogadro defined the elementary units of gaseous matter relevant for  chemical reactions as molecules. These are elementary structures (mass units) which now have the necessary physical property of being able to divide during chemical reactions. Normally, they operate holistically as units (almost like atoms), but in chemical reactions they divide and separate, fusioning with other molecules.

This hypothesis of a division process of the elementary matter units was the true ingenious and experimentally compelling insight of Avogadro. It is reflected in the hypothesis that different gases at the same volume, temperature and pressure consist of the same number of integral or constituent molecules, i.e. that the number of potentially divisible matter units per volume is the same, independent of different chemical properties. This insight - or rather heuristic conception - is still the most important basis of physical chemistry, molecular theory and thermodynamics. However, this division process is interpreted until today mechanistically and in the sense of the atomic hypothesis. That this molecule division process could also be of holistic nature, hence could be interpreted as a kind of molecular cell division, which doesn't need the atom concept at all, is an completely new idea. It should be noted that Avogadro's experimentally founded molecule division concept does not depend on matter hypotheses of what kind ever, but that all matter hypotheses must be compatible with Avogadro's division process. Therefore it must also apply to field theories.

The essence of Avogadro's hypothesis is the division process of elementary holistic structures (integral or constituent molecules), which is experimentally astutely justified and fully independent of the atomic hypothesis. For this reason the word atom does not appear in Avogadro's essay at all - it  appears only once in the German translation and proves to be a negligent error of the translator. More over, the atomic hypothesis was already clearly questioned by Avogadro, because the experimentally based division process resolved the contradiction that Dalton's atom had gotten into through the experiment.

Avogadro shows that only such a division and doubling process (basically the postulation, indeed the discovery of a new physical property) enables a quantitative understanding of the simple integer volume proportions of gas reactions that otherwise resemble a wonder of nature. Avogadro tries already to illustrate this division process with the implicit mechanistic idea that the constituent molecules could be composed of "elementary molecules" (into which, however, they decay only after division). Cannizzaro conceptually equates these imaginary components of the molecule 1860 with Dalton's atoms, so that Avogadros molecules now appear as mechanistic double atoms. This leads to the interesting effect that Avogadro's division hypothesis and Dalton's indivisibility hypothesis now appears compatible even to the most astute thinker. However, Avogadro's assumption that the divisibility of the molecules could be attributed to some kind of pre-composition was only an ad-hoc assumption, the only purpose of which was to make the divisibility process more plausible, also for himself. The atomic hypothesis can neither be derived from the volume proportions of the chemical reaction nor is it necessary to explain the molecular division process. It is also conceivable that structured molecules are created by non-mechanical, i.e. holistic, division processes as in biology, so that the products of molecular cell division can no longer be understood as atoms, but only as molecular cells.

Avogadro points out that his mass determinations are compatible with Dalton's multiple proportions if the division principle is applied. However, the significance of the division principle is even deeper: Due to the failure of the body concept of mechanics and the indivisibility hypothesis in the double-slit experiment, holistic division and fusion processes are absolutely necessary in order to understand and model the constitution of matter and fields physically. The holistic division process then represents a physical principle that has already been experimentally confirmed several times - in physics, chemistry and biology - and can then be understood as the basic principle of structure formation in nature. This leads directly to a universal field theory.

We have to accept this new conception because also quantum interference experiments with single "atoms" and molecules show exactly such division processes. And the quantum physical molecule orbital theory of Friedrich Hund and Robert Mulliken, which is based on molecular spectroscopy, i.e. experiments, has required us already since 1932 to completely abandon the atomic concept if we want to model and understand the chemical bond of the molecule. They even developed the idea that the hydrogen molecule results from a (holistic) division of the helium molecule. All this is still hardly known today.

Read more about Friedrich Hund and Robert Mulliken: Quantum Physics, Cell Division and the Nature of Chemical Bonding
Read more in my new book:

Quantum Top Secret - The Solution of the Quantum Enigma

The Dramatic Downfall of the Atomic World View. Call for a Revolution in Science

To be published in September 2019. The corresponding chapter and further reading samples will soon be published online on this website. Criticism, comments and hints are very welcome. Pre-order your book here: