Friday, May 23, 2008

Diminishing Deception

Some rather trite thoughts unfortunately, but it is the end of the week.

Still studying the behaviour of the electrical E and magnetic B fields through my OU course SMT359 - Electromagnetism. With great relief I sent the second assignment off to my tutor yesterday.

As I mentioned previously, the final chapter of the current booklet explains that the conceptual separation of E and B is an artefact. In special relativity it is shown that there is really only one entity, the electromagnetic tensor.

I also just finished Richard Feynman's little book "QED - the strange theory of light and matter". There are no fields, B, E or otherwise. There are virtual photons being exchanged between charged particles according to complex amplitudes. In the large, coordinated quantum behaviour can look like classical fields, which explains why those wrong theories appear to work.

It certainly reinforces the 'toolkit' view of physics, where we have no idea what is really happening 'out there'. Just different theoretical frameworks to bring to bear.

Maxwell would have thought all these 'spinning little arrows' Feynman described to be quite weird. His heuristic version of empty space contained deformable spinning cells with channelled electrical balls between them. The only reason for taking it seriously is that it agrees very precisely with experiment. It's when the experiments stop, because the equipment is just too expensive, that the physics stops too.

Roll on the LHC switch-on.