Skip to comments.New experiments challenge fundamental understanding of electromagnetism
Posted on 12/03/2012 2:29:16 PM PST by neverdem
A cornerstone of physics may require a rethink if findings at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are confirmed. Recent experiments suggest that the most rigorous predictions based on the fundamental theory of electromagnetismone of the four fundamental forces in the universe, and harnessed in all electronic devicesmay not accurately account for the behavior of atoms in exotic, highly charged states.
The theory in question is known as quantum electrodynamics, or QED, which physicists have held in high regard for decades because of its excellent track record describing electromagnetism's effects on matter. In particular, QED has been especially useful in explaining the behavior of electrons, which orbit every atomic nucleus. But for all of QED's successes, there are reasons to believe that QED may not provide a complete picture of reality, so scientists have looked for opportunities to test it to ever-increasing precision.
One way to test parts of QED is to take a fairly heavy atomtitanium or iron, for exampleand strip away most of the electrons that circle its nucleus. "If 20 of titanium's 22 electrons are removed, it becomes a highly charged ion that looks in many ways like a helium atom that has been shrunk to a tenth its original size," says NIST physicist John Gillaspy, a member of the research team. "Ironically, in this unusual state, the effects of QED are magnified, so we can explore them in more detail."
Among the many things QED is good for is predicting what will happen when an electron orbiting the nucleus collides with a passing particle. The excited electron gets bumped up momentarily to a higher energy state but quickly falls back to its original orbit. In the process, it gives off a photon of light, and QED tells what color (wavelength) that photon will have...
(Excerpt) Read more at phys.org ...
Feh. That's what I get for relying on Feynmans QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter (ISBN-10: 0691024170 | ISBN-13: 978-0691024172, $7.77 at Amazon.com) instead of having taken a real course in it.
As far as the Gold, I'll take your word for it: it was an offhand comment during a discussion section after a paper at a long-gone Theoretical Chemistry conference, but it was odd enough that it lodged in the esophagus of my mind.
Incidentally, speaking of the Dirac equation, doesn't it leave room for magnetic monopoles? John Van Vleck would be deeply saddened...
I owe you a beer!
God I love FR...thanks to all.
Well ... it could, but he never developed a fully formed Hamiltonian that would include magnetic monopoles in his theory of the electron, AFAIK.
The famous Dirac/Magnetic Monopoles thing you're talking about was that he published a symmetrized revision of Maxwell's Equations which included magnetic monopoles complete with a magnetic Gauss's Law and Magnetic displacement currents. The whole deal. The consequences were interesting. But it was purely classical.
As you correctly point out, all that is required is a conductor moving in an electromagnetic field (specific conductors, such as iron and nickel are not required.) Or [what relativistically amounts to the same thing] a stationary conductor inside a time varying electromagnetic field will also function as a generator.
The expansion of water from the nuclear pile's heat is just a way to move the turbine. That's all. Any way you could convert the heat into some way of moving the conductor through the field works just fine. As it turns out, for many reasons including the enormous amounts available and its low toxicity, water is actually a pretty good fluid to use.
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