The electron

The electron is usually described as a fundamental or elementary particle. That doesn’t tell you much, but when you look for more information, it’s rather scant. You soon learn that the electron has a mass of 9.109 x 10-31 kg or 511keV/c². You learn that it has a charge of −1.602 x 10−19 Coulombs or -1e, the e being elementary charge. You also learn that it has spin ½. However you don’t learn much else. Instead you get mixed messages. Take a look at the enigmatic electron by Frank Wilczek. He said “to understand the electron is to understand the world”. That’s good. But he also said “there are several inconsistent answers, each correct”. That’s not good. Wilczek then said the proper quantum mechanical description of electrons involves wave functions, whose oscillation patterns are standing waves”. That’s good. But he also said “the electron is a simple point-particle”. That’s not good. Nor is electrons are understood with precision, and at the same time utterly mysterious”. I don’t think electrons are utterly mysterious. That’s because I’ve looked at the hard scientific evidence, and the history. Including page 26 of  Schrödinger’s quantization as a problem of proper values, part II. That’s where he said “let us think of a wave group of the nature described above, which in some way gets into a small closed ‘path’, whose dimensions are of the order of the wave length”. Compare and contrast with Dirac, who was enamoured with mathematical beauty but never understood the electron. In 1938, he still thought it was a point particle. In 1962 he thought it was a charged shell.

The electron is not a point particle

Many sources will tell you the electron is point-like. See for example the particle data group. The particle data group is “an international collaboration charged with summarizing particle physics. They produce a review which has been called the bible of particle physics, and has been cited in more than 50,000 papers. And they’ll tell you that electrons are definitely smaller than 10-18 meters”:

Image by the particle data group

This is authoritative stuff, but when you look for the supporting evidence for this point-like electron, it is elusive. Take a look at the 2002 paper limits on sizes of fundamental particles and on gravitational mass of a scalar by Irina Dymnikova, Juergen Ulbricht, and Jiawei Zhao. They talk about the QED reaction e+e → γγ(γ) at energies between 91GeV and 202GeV. That’s high-energy electron-positron annihilation to gamma photons. They say the interaction proceeds via the exchange of a virtual or “excited” electron with a mass greater than 402 GeV, and the characteristic size of this is less than 1.17 x 10−17cm. They also say that they assume that a fundamental particle must have a de Sitter vacuum core related to its mass, with a finite geometrical size defined by gravity. This de Sitter vacuum core is hypothetical. It cannot be employed to support a claim that relies upon a virtual electron exchange. Not when virtual particles only exist in the mathematics of the model. There’s no evidence that a 402 GeV electron is exchanged between the electron and the positron, and there’s no evidence for the de-Sitter vacuum core. So there’s no evidence here that the electron is small.

There’s no actual evidence that the electron is small

On Wikipedia you can read that “observation of a single electron in a Penning trap shows the upper limit of the particle’s radius is 10−22 meters”. But when you follow up on the references and read Hans Dehmelt’s 1989 Nobel lecture you realise that the upper limit is merely an extrapolation. It’s an extrapolation from a measured g value, which relies upon “a plausible relation given by Brodsky and Drell (1980) for the simplest composite theoretical model of the electron”. The extrapolation yields an electron radius R ≈ 10-20 cm, but it isn’t a measurement. Especially when “the electron forms a 1 μm long wave packet, 30 nm in diameter”. When you track back to Brodsky and Dell you can read the anomalous magnetic moment and limits on fermion substructure. And what you read is this: “If the electron or muon is in fact a composite system, it is very different from the familiar picture of a bound state formed of elementary constituents since it must be simultaneously light in mass and small in spatial extension”. The conclusion is effectively this: if an electron is composite it must be small. But there’s no actual evidence that it’s composite. So it’s a non-sequitur to claim that the electron must be small. So again there’s no evidence here that the electron is small.

But there is evidence for electron spin

Note that Brodsky and Dell weren’t talking about measuring the electron’s size. They were talking about “the very (almost incredibly) precise measurements of the electron and muon gyromagnetic ratios”. Also note that Dehmelt wasn’t measuring the electron’s size either. He was using a Penning trap and spin-flips to measure the electron’s magnetic moment. Check out the Wikipedia electron magnetic moment article. It says the electron’s magnetic moment is −9284.764 × 10−27 J⋅T−1. And that if the electron was a classical charged particle literally rotating about an axis with a spin angular momentum of L, its magnetic dipole moment would be μ = -eL/2me. However the measured value is different by the electron spin g-factor, which is known with great precision to be 2.00231930436146. See the spin magnetic dipole moment section of the Wikipedia article and note this: The magnetic moment of an electron is approximately twice what it should be in classical mechanics. The factor of two implies that the electron appears to be twice as effective in producing a magnetic moment as the corresponding classical charged body”. No, Dehmelt wasn’t measuring the electron’s size. He was measuring its spin. The evidence is evidence of the electron’s spin, not its size.

The Stern-Gerlach experiment

Talking of which, I particularly like the discovery of electron spin by Samuel Goudsmit: “But don’t you see what this implies? It means that there is a fourth degree of freedom for the electron. It means that the electron has a spin, that it rotates”. That was in the autumn of 1925, after Wolfgang Pauli shot down Ralph Kronig for the same idea earlier that year. See the Wikipedia spin article: When Pauli heard about the idea, he criticized it severely, noting that the electron’s hypothetical surface would have to be moving faster than the speed of light”. Also note the final paragraph: “in retrospect, the first direct experimental evidence of the electron spin was the Stern–Gerlach experiment of 1922. See the story of the bad cigar, which gives some detail about Otto Stern and Walther Gerlach. Also see Rod Nave’s hyperphysics for a picture of the Stern-Gerlach experiment:

Image from Rod Nave’s hyperphysics 

If you’ve ever played football you’ll know the gist of how the Stern-Gerlach experiment works. Especially if you can bend it like Beckham. You’re twenty yards from goal, and you kick the ball left-of-centre with your right foot, aiming for a point a metre left of the leftside post and a metre above the bar. The ball curves right, into the top left corner. Goal! Or you kick the ball right-of-centre with your left foot, aiming for a point a metre right of the rightside post and a metre above the bar. The ball curves left, into the top right corner. Goal! See the Wikipedia Curl (football) article where you can read about the Magnus effect which causes a rotating ball to form a whirlpool about itself. For the Stern-Gerlach experiment you have to flip things over such that left or right, you’re aiming for the centre of the goal, but the spin takes it to the right post or the left. Silver atoms are like footballs in that there’s an outer electron which is spin-up or spin-down with respect to the rest of the silver atom. It’s like they all have topspin or backspin, and nothing in between. They go to one place or the other, not anywhere in between. Electrons are like footballs too, in that their spin is a real rotation. They don’t rotate like footballs, because they’re spin ½ particles. But nevertheless that spin is real.

Spin is real

See Hans Ohanian’s 1984 paper what is spin? I think it’s a rather telling and chilling account. He says “since the naïve mechanical picture of spin proved untenable, physicists were left with the concept of spin minus its physical basis, like the grin of the Cheshire cat”. He goes on to say Pauli pontificated that spin is an essentially quantum-mechanical property, and that the lack of a concrete picture was a satisfactory state of affairs. He then quotes from Pauli’s 1955 essay Exclusion Principle, Lorentz Group and Reflection of Space-time and Charge: “After a brief period of spiritual and human confusion caused by a provisional restriction to ‘Anschaulichkeit’, a general agreement was reached following the substitution of abstract mathematical symbols, as for instance psi, for concrete pictures. Especially the concrete picture of rotation has been replaced by mathematical characteristics of the representations of rotations in three-dimensional space”. Have you ever heard such astonishing arrogant ignorant nonsense? It’s particularly astonishing because Ohanian says this: “the means for filling the gap have been at hand since 1939, when Belinfante established that the spin could be regarded as due to a circulating flow of energy”. Frederik Belinfante’s paper was 80 years ago. Sigh. Follow the lead and search on Gordon decomposition, and you soon find Gordon decomposition of Dirac current: a new interpretation by Suresh C Tiwari. He says this: wherever matter-radiation interaction is involved, eg the Newton-Lorentz equation or Dirac equation, factoring out e from electromagnetic quantities one always ends up with the combination e²/c that curiously has the dimension of angular momentum”. He also says he put forward a conjecture that electric charge is a manifestation of mechanical rotation. That was in 1997. And here we are in the 21st century still falling for that total lack of visualisation or vividness. It fair takes the breath away.

An electron doesn’t rotate like a planet

An old version of the Wikipedia Stern-Gerlach article more or less says what Pauli said: “Electrons are spin-½ particles. These have only two possible spin angular momentum values measured along any axis, +ħ/2 or −ħ/2. If this value arises as a result of the particles rotating the way a planet rotates, then the individual particles would have to be spinning impossibly fast. Even if the electron radius were as large as 2.8 fm (the classical electron radius), its surface would have to be rotating at 2.3 × 1011 m/s. The speed of rotation at the surface would be in excess of the speed of light, 2.998 × 108 m/s, and is thus impossible. Instead, spin angular momentum is a purely quantum mechanical phenomenon”. There’s just one little problem with that. An electron doesn’t rotate the way a planet rotates. So saying the speed of rotation would exceed c and therefore spin isn’t a real rotation is another non-sequitur. Electron spin is a real rotation. The Stern-Gerlach experiment proves it. And that’s not the only experiment that proves it. The Einstein-de Haas effect proves it too.

Spin is demonstrably a real rotation

The Einstein-de Haas effect dates from 1915. It’s also referred to as the Richardson gyro-magnetic effect, which goes back to 1908. It’s an experiment that measures the torque generated by a reversal of the magnetization of an iron cylinder. The cylinder is surrounded by a solenoid. When you turn on the current, the cylinder rotates. It’s not unlike the impulse that makes your garden hose reel rotate a little when you turn the water on. When you turn the water off, the reel jerks back to its original position. See The Quirky Side of Scientists where David Topper talks about this on page 11. Also see the Wikipedia Einstein-de Haas article. It says this: “Considering Ampère’s hypothesis that magnetism is caused by the microscopic circular motions of electric charges, the authors proposed a design to test Lorentz’s theory that the rotating particles are electrons”. There’s more in the Einstein digital papers under Einstein’s four papers and two notes on Ampère’s molecular currents. Three of the papers were written in collaboration with Wander de Haas, who was Lorentz’s son-in-law. They used alternating current tuned to the natural frequency of the cylinder to produce a measurable deflection. It’s all to do with conservation of angular momentum. The electron’s magnetic moment is called a moment for a reason, and it’s there because the electron behaves like a tiny bar magnet. If you put a bar magnet inside a solenoid, it lines up with the magnetic field, like a compass needle points north. In similar vein the electron intrinsic spins line up with the magnetic field of the solenoid. Reverse the current and these “compass needles” swing round and point the other way. Their angular momentum changes, for every action there is a reaction, so the iron cylinder swings round too, the other way. The crucial point is that the Einstein-de Haas effect “demonstrates that spin angular momentum is indeed of the same nature as the angular momentum of rotating bodies as conceived in classical mechanics”.

Spin angular momentum is real angular momentum

The crucial point to note is that spin angular momentum is a genuine angular momentum, as is the angular momentum of a macroscopic rotating body. If it wasn’t, the action of reversing the electron spin wouldn’t cause the cylinder to rotate. Or vice versa, as per the Barnett effect. That’s the inverse of the Einstein-de Haas effect. You can rotate an unmagnetized soft iron cylinder to magnetize it. See Novel NMR and EPR Techniques by Janez Dolinsek, Marija Vilfan, and Slobodan Zumer. They tell how in 1914 the Barnett effect “provided the first scientific evidence that the electron had an anomalous magnetic moment with a g factor of 2”. They also say many people are not aware of the Barnett effect because it’s mentioned so little in the literature:

The Barnett effect, image from Frontiers in physics, mechanical generation of spin current

Also note that the electron behaves like a tiny bar magnet, that a bar magnet behaves like a solenoid, and that a solenoid features current going around and around. So what’s going around and around in an electron?

The Poynting vector is real too

Take a look at what Feynman said in the Feynman lectures: Suppose we take the example of a point charge sitting near the center of a bar magnet, as shown in Fig. 27–6. Everything is at rest, so the energy is not changing with time. Also, E and B are quite static. But the Poynting vector says that there is a flow of energy, because there is an E × B that is not zero. If you look at the energy flow, you find that it just circulates around and around. There isn’t any change in the energy anywhere – everything which flows into one volume flows out again. It is like incompressible water flowing around. So there is a circulation of energy in this so-called static condition. How absurd it gets!”

Fig 27-6 from The Feynman Lectures by Michael A Gottlieb and Rudolf Pfeiffer

Only it isn’t absurd at all. The Wikipedia Poynting vector in a static field article talks about a circular  flow of electromagnetic energy. It shows the Poynting vector marked with an S. It goes around and around. The article says this: “While the circulating energy flow may seem nonsensical or paradoxical, it is necessary to maintain conservation of momentum. Momentum density is proportional to energy flow density, so the circulating flow of energy contains an angular momentum”. Feynman also said this: we know also that there is momentum circulating in the space. But a circulating momentum means that there is angular momentum. So there is angular momentum in the field”. You bet there’s angular momentum in the field.

It’s light Jim, but not as we know it

The Wikipedia article is talking about a cylindrical capacitor, but it’s true for an electron too. Because the electron is a charged particle, and it behaves like a tiny bar magnet. Because it doesn’t have an electric field or a magnetic field, it has an electromagnetic field. People think this field is static, but something’s going round and round, as per the Poynting vector. And where else have we seen a Poynting vector? Why, in an electromagnetic wave:

Electromagnetic wave image © Blaze labs

So what’s going around and around in an electron? Let’s see now. We made the electron out of light in pair production, we can diffract electrons, as per the Davisson-Germer experiment and the Thomson and Reid diffraction experiment. We can refract electrons, we can perform electron optics with electrons, and when we annihilate the electron with a positron, what we get is light. It’s elementary my dear Watson. The thing that’s going around and around is light. Only when it does, we don’t call it a photon any more. We call it an electron.

A 511keV photon with toroidal topology

John Williamson and Martin van der Mark wrote a paper in 1991 called Is the electron a photon with toroidal topology? The answer is yes, and they’re not the only people to ask such questions. Also see Qiu-Hong Hu’s 2005 paper The nature of the electron:

Images by John Williamson and Martin van der Mark and by Qiu-Hong Hu

As for the radius of this toroidal energy flow, I think it’s important to remember that the photon takes many paths, just like a seismic wave takes many paths. It isn’t limited to some AB line, even if you wrap that line into a closed path. Hence the Wikipedia electron article says the issue of the radius of the electron is a challenging problem. No wonder, because the electron’s field is what it is. Lorentz knew that back in 1902. And we all know that this field has no outer edge. The field gets weaker and weaker with distance from the centre, but it doesn’t stop. So why do people think the electron has a radius? Because Lorentz used the expression m=e2/r0c2? If you’ve ever read Maxwell’s theory of molecular vortices, I think you may know the answer. See the heady collisions Columbia article which likens particles to tornadoes and hurricanes. Then take a look at a hurricane. It has a radius of maximum wind, which lies just within the eyewall. The eye of the storm has a radius, but the radius of the eye is not the size of the storm. The eye is where there is no wind. Where there is no storm:

Hurricane Isabel courtesy of NASA

In similar vein the classical electron radius is not the size of the electron, and nor is any other radius. Saying the electron is point-like is like hanging out of a helicopter probing a whirlpool with a bargepole, and then saying I can’t feel the billiard-ball so it must be really small. Even the Compton radius isn’t the size of the electron. Nor is the Compton wavelength. Wilczek said ”the electron is effectively a spinning ball of charge, which electromagnetism tells us, generates a dipole magnetic field. The size of that ball can be estimated to be roughly 2.4 x 10-12 meters. The electron is not a spinning ball of charge. It’s an electromagnetic wave going around and around that looks like it’s a ball of charge. The wavelength is 2.426 x 10-12 meters, but the wave is wrapped round twice around a twisting turning spin ½ path. That’s why the electromagnetic field variation looks like an all-round standing field and therefore a charged particle.

The radius of “the eye of the storm” for this electromagnetic standing-wave is the Compton wavelength divided by 4π. It isn’t a fluid-flow vortex like a cyclone or a Falaco soliton or a smoke ring. It’s a stress-energy vortex, an optical vortex, an energy flow. But it has intrinsic spin like a tornado has intrinsic spin. That’s what makes it what it is. Remove the rotation from a spinning coin and it’s still a coin. Remove the rotation from a tornado and it isn’t a tornado any more. All you’ve got is wind. It’s the same for the electron. Remove the rotation from an electron and it isn’t an electron any more. All you’ve got is light. Because the electron is a “spinor”, and a spinor does what it says on the can: Spinors were introduced in geometry by Élie Cartan in 1913. In the 1920s physicists discovered that spinors are essential to describe the intrinsic angular momentum, or ‘spin’, of the electron and other subatomic particles”.

The electron is a standing-wave spinor

The electron is a spinor, with an intrinsic spin that makes it what it is: a standing wave. Hence in atomic orbitals electrons “exist as standing waves”. And outside of atomic orbitals, electrons still exist as standing waves. Standing wave, standing field. Like Wilczek said, the proper quantum mechanical description of electrons involves wave functions, whose oscillation patterns are standing waves”.

GNUFDL spinor image by Slawkb, see Wikipedia

This is why the de Broglie hypothesis concerns the wave nature of matter, not the point-particle nature of matter. This is why after noticing a point made by Hermann Weyl, Erwin Schrödinger gave us the time-independent Schrödinger equation which predicts that wave functions can form standing waves”. This is why we can diffract electrons. We can even refract them, as per Ehrenberg and Siday’s 1949 paper The Refractive Index in Electron Optics and the Principles of Dynamics. That’s the paper that predicted what’s now known as the Aharonov-Bohm effect. That dates from 1959, and demonstrates that electromagnetic four-potential is most fundamental, not point particles. We’ve known since 1933 that we can make electrons and positrons out of electromagnetic waves in pair production. See Patrick Blackett’s paper Some photographs of the tracks of penetrating radiation co-authored with Giuseppe Occhialini. We also know that we cannot separate an electron from its electromagnetic field. There are no neutral electrons. The electron’s electromagnetic field is part of what it is. In fact the electron’s electromagnetic field is what it is. There is a wealth of evidence for the wave nature of matter, and no evidence for the point-particle nature of matter. That’s why it’s quantum field theory, not quantum point-particle theory. Or should be.

The electron has spherical symmetry

To grasp what we’re dealing with, I think it’s useful to think of the spinor depiction as something like an uninflated inner tube. When we pump it up, we have a ring torus, akin to the Poynting vector depictions, reminiscent of a dipole, and without a cowlick. But that doesn’t go far enough. We need to keep on inflating. Our inner tube gets fatter, resembling a horn torus. Even that doesn’t go far enough. We have experimental evidence that the electron at rest has a spherical symmetry as per the physicsworld article search for electron’s electric dipole moment narrows. So we have to keep on inflating until our spinor is a spindle-sphere torus. Only then does it look like the s-orbital:

Gifs courtesy of Adrian Rossiter’s torus animations, S-orbital image from the 2010 Encyclopaedia Britannica

Only this isn’t what the electron really looks like, because an electron has no outer surface. I’m tempted to say it has an inner surface, like the eye of the storm, but there is no inner surface in any real sense. The depiction shows the rotation, that’s all. And it isn’t the full picture because in a hydrogen s-orbital the electron’s electromagnetic field is largely countered by the proton’s electromagnetic field. Take the proton away, leaving a free electron, with its field in all its glory. Now what does it look like?

What the electron looks like

Of course, the electron doesn’t really look like anything. It isn’t some purple billiard ball, even if some cosmic joker has also shown it as such in the physicsworld dipole article. It has rotation and internal motion, like Born and Infeld were saying in 1935. A spin ½ wave motion, such that the wave ends up looking like a standing field. And it’s just field, like Gustav Mie said in 1913. But you can “see” a solenoid’s magnetic field with iron filings, so you can “see” the electron electromagnetic field too. Then you see that this field has angular momentum. It isn’t a simple spin, it’s a compound spin, a bispinor spin-½ spin with two orthogonal rotations, one toroidal, one poloidal, one at twice the rate of the other. It’s like a steering wheel spin and a smoke-ring spin combined, but with a toroidal topology and a spherical geometry. The result isn’t so different to the gravitomagnetic field. Oliver Heaviside developed gravitomagnetism as an analogy of electromagnetism. What does gravitomagnetism feature? A space-time vortex along with twisted spacetime and frame-dragging. What’s the difference between gravitomagnetism and electro-magnetism? One deals with curved spacetime, the other with curved space. That’s a big difference, but they’re not entirely different. Take a look at the Wikipedia gravitoelectromagnetism article: “Consider a toroidal mass with two degrees of rotation (both major axis and minor-axis spin, both turning inside out and revolving). This represents a “special case” in which gravitomagnetic effects generate a chiral corkscrew-like gravitational field around the object”. So what sort of electromagnetic field would we have for a spinor with two degrees of rotation? It would look something like this:

Poynting flux image found on physics stack exchange

It’s like you reach into a lattice with your right hand and twist, then reach round the side with your left hand and twist again. Perhaps one day somebody will set up animations to show it to you in an intuitive fashion, demonstrating how pair production really works, and how the electron is a dynamical spinor in frame-dragged space. But I’m going to show you a flat version instead. It’s easier to draw, and easier to grasp:

For some strange reason human beings seem to have difficulty thinking about curvature in three dimensions. It’s somehow easier to understand the electron when it’s depicted as a flat thing on a piece of paper. It’s easier to see why it’s a dynamical spinor in frame-dragged space, and why it moves the way that it does, and how a magnet works. It’s easier to see why the scientific evidence says this is what the electron is. The scientific evidence of the screw nature of electromagnetism. But first, a brief word on the positron.


This Post Has 38 Comments

  1. Why a photon of, say, 512KeV does not form a “particle”?

    1. Utmost apologies MC, your comment went into the spam folder, and I didn’t notice it. I can’t see why it went into the spam folder, sorry.
      A 512 KeV photon can form an electron or a positron if it interacts with another photon of 511keV or more. If you perform pair production with two 512 keV photons, the electron and the positron will each have 1 keV of kinetic energy. If however you try to perform pair production with two 510 keV photons, you can’t create an electron and a positron. There isn’t enough energy. You need 511keV to bend space full circle and form the electromagnetic wave into a spin ½ standing field “knot” with unit charge. And since the only tool in the box to do this is more of the same, you have to make two opposite knots at the same time.

  2. Looking at your citation of “Is the electron a photon with toroidal topology?” by van der Mark and your other descriptions of particles, in particular your last one about the neutron, you seem to follow a description of particles as wound-up or knotted or circulating energy, likely from the electromagnetic field.

    In the chapter on “Confinement” Williamson&van der Mark say that they don’t know how to describe the wound-up field in formulas. I wonder if anything followed from their paper. Looking at the citations at Google, I don’t see any paper picking up on this idea to either show that it is possible or prove that it is impossible.

    What would be needed is as follows: a time varying field (i.e. a function $f:\mathbb{R}^3\to\mathbb{R}^N$ for $N=1$ or $N=3$ or $N=6$) that fulfills the [wave equation][1], yet keeps a small, fixed, finite support (i.e. where it is $\neq 0$) over time. In one dimension, every sufficiently well behaved function $f:\mathbb{R}\to\mathbb{R}$ with finite support can be converted to a wave by using $f_{wave}(t,x)=f(x-t)$. The form of the function stays the same, so it stays “fixed, finite support”, but it moves over the real line with time.

    In [3 dimensions][2], solutions to the wave equation are either spherical waves or planar waves, none of which seems to fit the bill of keeping fixed, finite support over time. Instead the volume of support tends to increase (spherical) or is infinite from the start (plane).

    Yet any combination of the basis waves are also solutions to the wave equation. An approach to van der Mark’s confinement question would be to either prove or disprove that fixed, finite support solutions to the wave equation exist.

    Probably this question has already a paper somewhere. Yet I could not find one. Maybe its trivial to prove the non-existence, which is why nobody bothers.


    1. Harald: yes, I envisage a massive particle to be an electromagnetic wave “which in some way gets into a small closed ‘path’, whose dimensions are of the order of the wave length”. Schrödinger said that, but Frenkel’s point-particle electron was adopted in QFT, leading to the problem of infinities. See Quantum electrodynamics in the 1920s. It would also seem that TQFT has been forsaken.
      As far as I know Williamson & van der Mark’s paper has been “studiously ignored”. Once you admit a standing-wave electron, renormalization is seen to be a kludge rather than a virtue. Once you know that spin is real, virtual photons are seen to be spurious. And so on. It creates issues.
      I’m sorry, I’m not sure what you mean about the fixed finite support. I would however say Williamson and van der Mark talk of electric fields and magnetic fields, and don’t refer to displacement current at all. Hence they say confinement is an open question. They said “the curvature of space due to the mass of our object is far too weak to confine a photon” but they were thinking of gravity as spatial curvature. It isn’t. Electromagnetism is spatial curvature. I’d love to see them produce a new paper using some of the information here. I’d also love to see somebody produce a lattice simulation of gamma-gamma pair production. I think seeing a wave curl up is vital for developing a wave equation. The electron isn’t that complicated, but here we are 121 years after its discovery, and people still say it’s a point particle with a field instead of a spherically-symmetric standing-wave configuration.

  3. Dear Harald and John,
    Please find present and future papers on my ResearchGate page:
    Coming up is a paper on the de Broglie wavelength of an electromagnetic object.
    Regarding your comments: Indeed, for confinement something extra is need, and nobody has been able to really figure out what. The fact that electrons exists shows that such a something must exists even if we cannot find it in present theory, or perhaps we simply lack the imagination for the topological construct that it probably is. So you are both right, something is lacking.
    Note that John Williamson and I have never suggested that space curvature due to gravitation is causing confinement, but it may be some kind of twist of space, leading to a non-simply connected local deformation. This then must be due to the electromagnetic field. As John Duffield is saying, displacement currents seem to essential in this context, and some kind of non-linearity. My latest ideas seems to point to a parametric oscillation…

    1. Thanks Martin, I can see your papers. I think there’s an analogy for the electron’s de Broglie wavelength in stretching a 2-coil spring. The diameter reduces, and when you look at it from one end you might think the circumference, and thus the wavelength reduces too.
      As for the confinement, I think there’s less to it than meets the eye, and people are over-thinking it. I know of no wave where there is no displacement. When a seismic wave moves through the ground, the ground waves. When an ocean wave moves through the sea, the sea waves. When an electromagnetic wave moves through space, space waves.
      Apologies if I misrepresented page 18 paragraph 2 of the electron paper you wrote with John Williamson. What I meant to get across is that electromagnetism is spatial curvature – when a photon goes past you, space waves, and where it waves, it’s curved. I think there are some definite clues to this, which I’ve tried to lay out in the photon and the hole in the heart of quantum electrodynamics, and how pair production works. PS: What’s a parametric oscillation? I liked what Andrew Meulenberg said in the SPIE panel paper about the photon being a self-generated soliton that forms a “light pipe”. It’s a shame SPIE have abandoned fundamental physics.

  4. John, when you say “standing wave”, do you mean it? A standing wave is either the interference of two waves travelling in opposite directions or a wave trapped in a resonator, which in a way again is interference of waves travelling in opposite directions. This would either pose the question “where do the two waves come from” or “what are the walls of the resonator”?

    What I think confinement should really be is what I meant with “fixed finite support”, the better term would likely be “support with time independent bound on its diameter”, where support is the subset of the domain of the wave where it is nonzero. See the formalized description here: No answer yet:-(

    1. Do I really mean standing wave? No. The wave isn’t motionless, it’s going round and round. But it’s in the form of a double loop, so at any one location around the loop there are two wave components which always add up to the same total. So it doesn’t look like a wave going round and round at c. Nothing is waving, instead it looks like a standing field. But it isn’t really standing. Annihilate the electron with a positron and you unwind the loop, so the wave then propagates linearly at c instead of round and round at c.
      When it’s in the double loop configuration I suppose there is a “support with a time independent bound”. The wave is in a double loop displacing itself into a closed path, and it’s time independent, apart from zitterbewegung. Note though that the diameter is an inner diameter, like the diameter of the eye of the storm. It’s the Compton wavelength divided by 2π. There is no outer diameter because the electron field doesn’t stop at some distance from the centre.
      I looked at and I think the answer is yes, see the gifs above, but I don’t know how to express it mathematically. Nor does anybody else, it would seem. Hence no answers. IMHO it’s difficult to describe a 3D dynamical wave in a chiral spin ½ configuration using a line of symbols.

  5. There is a lot more to be said, but for now I will limit myself to saying; after becoming utterly disappointed with the attitudes of people on websites like physics stack exchange, I seem to have found the beginnings of a community of sceptical realists with a real desire to figure out what the nature of things is. It is a privilege to observe the discussion in progress. By bizarre coincidence John, the ideas I have been developing address issues relating to 3D dynamics and chirality through cubic geometry. I note the attitude of the wider community to dismiss ideas in the comment about the possibility that disproving the possibility of a fixed finite support solution to the wave equation could be trivial and that is why nobody bothers. Nature seems to have way of achieving the things that mathematicians dismiss trivially. Nature does not worry about divide by zero errors or infinities. It has no problem with allowing bicycles to be ridden although mathematicians do. I am really pleased that the opinions on the forum this blog provides don’t seem to accept simple dismissal of ideas without well considered reasons.

  6. With regard to the comment “Nor does anybody else, it would seem.” I would just say, first comes the concept, then the description. Then come the attempts at a formal mathematical description. Then comes an accepted mathematical description. At any point along that timeline may come an experiment that proves to anyone with a brain in their head that something is correct. The ideas and mathematical formalism may lead or lag the experiment. The experiment underpins the theoretical investigation. Observation and understanding can easily precede mathematical formalism, but they don’t always. The two have a synergy. The world does not obey the laws we make for it. If we formulate our laws (of Science) correctly we may Ape the world, inadvertently.

    1. Thanks Andy. I’m afraid there are people on physics websites who act like “defenders of the faith” rather than empirical scientists. Hence they dismiss not just ideas, but hard scientific evidence too. It can be utterly astonishing at times. I hope I’m never like that. What’s cubic geometry?
      As regards concept/description/mathematics/experiment, yes, that’s how it’s supposed to work. But you may have noticed me saying when a church needs a miracle, a church gets a miracle. If you look closely at some of the “discovery” experiments in particle physics in recent decades, they aren’t particularly convincing.

  7. Cubic Geometry is my own invention. So feel free to entirely dismiss it. I noticed that there was a coincidental relationship between energy and cubic geometry when I looked into radar. Electromagnetic radiation is all about power through area. You can visualize three square areas moving in 3 orthogonal directions sweeping out a cubic region. I will provide an animation in due course. That idea got me to thinking that perhaps there was something to be explored in terms of electromagnetism, swept volumes and cubes. I have developed a body of work that I am trying to figure out how best to exploit, but, basically, it looks pretty good to me and I am trying to find a market.

    I agree with your observation that when the Church needs a miracle, the church gets a miracle. That unfortunately is the result of politics, information management and vested interests. Science is not immune, and while they are building billion pound colliders requiring thousands of phd grads to staff it, it will remain less immune.

    1. The swept volume reminds me of Andrew Worsley and his electron Compton wavelength of λ = 4πn / ν(c³). I do think he’s on to something with that. See I tried to work something out with him a few years back concerning swept volumes and spheres, but we got stuck and both moved on. Good luck trying to find a market. Meanwhile do say more or send me something, and see the Conceptual Development of Einstein’s Mass-Energy Relationship by Chee Leong Wong and Kueh Chin Yap.

  8. so, what exactly causes 2 511KeV photons to become boxed up in themselves and become an electron/positron pair?

  9. right, but what determines WHEN that happens? Light can apparently exist as 511 mev gamma ray photons, what makes them curl up into a lepton at some particular time?

    1. When one 511 kEV photon moves through another. Check out gamma-gamma pair production. Each photon displaces the other into itself. Then each photon ends up moving through itself, continually displacing its own path into a closed path.

  10. ok got it. Thanks.

    1. Good stuff Gary. IMHO the crucial point is that light is a wave in space. So space waves. I don’t know of any waves where something doesn’t wave. And where space waves, space is displaced, space is curved. As far as I know this idea first appeared in Wlliam Kingdon Clifford’s 1870 space theory of matter. He said this:
      (1) That small portions of space are in fact of a nature analogous to little hills on a surface which is on the average flat; namely, that the ordinary laws of geometry are not valid in them.
      (2) That this property of being curved or distorted is continually being passed on from one portion of space to another after the manner of a wave.
      (3) That this variation of the curvature of space is what really happens in that phenomenon which we call the motion of matter, whether ponderable or etherial.
      (4) That in the physical world nothing else takes place but this variation, subject (possibly) to the law of continuity.

  11. First, John. It is usual error of physicists to state that compositional nature of particles have to be proved. No. It is statement that particle is elementary need proves. Substances, molecules, atoms, nuclei are composite, so if one would like to state that particle, for example, electron is elementary, it has to be proved. That means that all possible candidates of particles known or unknown has to be checked as possible subelectron level subparticles. That was not done.

    For example, negative pion and neutrino can be subparticles for electron, from general considerarions, although it can hardly be understood from physical usual way of thinking.
    You are trying to find true, usual errors is your enemy.
    Second. Spherical symmetry for electron is strange, as for any spinner. Spin 1/2 is not compatible to that symmetry.
    Negative pion could have such symmetry with spin 0, for example.

    1. I rather think the statement “the electron is elementary” is a cop-out. How can it be elementary when we can create and destroy electrons (and positrons) in pair production and annihilation? Why is there no explanation of how this occurs? Instead what we get is some ju-ju about creation and annihilation oparators that make particles pop into existence or out of existence. It’s garbage.
      The negative pion can’t be a sub-component of an electron because its mass is 139MeV. Sorry Pavel.
      The spherical symmetry isn’t strange. It’s like pumping up an inner tube. The torus gets fatter and fatter. A very very very fat torus looks spherical. See the blue gif on the right of the Wikipedia torus article. And remember, the electron doesn’t have a surface.

  12. We can get pairs of elementary particles, as well as pairs of composite particles. That is flexible system and pair formation is matter of energy content, not elementarity. For example, in the list of particles, boson D looks as composite particle, while boson Ds looks as elementary. Both were generated somehow by accelerators.
    I agree with you that it is a shame that explanation for pair formation were not provided, but this not possible without full understanding of nature of particles as standing waves.
    The mass 139 is a reason for physicists to ignore negative pion. Nevertheless, that is just usual error of physicists.
    Sum of mass of possible subelectronic particles must be grater than electron. That’s all that matter. 139 is greater than 0.5. The rest is considered as binding energy. We know too little about mass and particles to conclude for sure that 138.5 energy of binding between particles is impossible.
    But there is another problem. You mentioned this problem. I would call it ‘wave / particle mixing’. Free waves propagating in space are mixed with local standing waves. Photon and neutrino considered particles. But I think you right that neutrino is wave.
    For that reason, some local field twist is needed for particles – as local reflection of neutrino wave symmetry.
    Negative pion + twist = electron? With big energy effect from twisting?
    Another problem is uncertaincy with 3 types of neutrino. Which is the difference between them? How they constructed?
    About spherical symmetry for electron. Spherical symmetry of electrostatic field of electron is well known. I mean that electron itself can hardly be spherical ‘body’, as having spin 1/2 suggests at least more complex construction that spheric. Even if we just imagine simple rotating sphere with vector of angular momentum (spin 1), it already will not be body with symmetry of simple sphere.

  13. Two independent parameters – spin 1/2 and charge. At least, charged pions with spin zero showed it.
    If neutrino is wave propagating with speed of electromagnetic wave, then we cannot consider it as particle in chemical considerations.
    Then 2 main types of particles we know
    spin 1/2 charge 1 – electron, proton and higher
    spin 0 charge 1 – charged pions and higher

    Thus, charge and spin is independent parameters.
    Third type annihilate to EM for itself:
    spin 0 charge 0
    We may see, that to prevent this self annihilating, particle should have either spin either charge.
    Fourth type spin 1/2 charge 0 – neutron and higher – as we think, is composite. Probably, some other unknown particle may exist with this properties. Something like neutrino propagating wave, but local.

  14. Did Pauli discovered new wave, not particle? Then they fixed error with Nobel? Another fake? 🙂
    Is local particle with that properties (neutral fermion with mass) is possible? Or from the point of view of standing waves it is not possible, John?

  15. Very bad error for physics to mix standing (particles) and space propagation (waves)… Really difficult to understand what is real what not…
    Twist = standing version of neutrino wave?

  16. May twist exists apart from charge?

  17. A photon is a boson, but it isn’t made up of other particles. An alpha particle is a boson, and it’s made up of two protons and two neutrons. A “boson” is merely a particle with a symmetric wave function.
    Yes, 139 MeV is greater than 0.5 MeV. But don’t kid yourself that 138.5 MeV of binding energy allows a pion to be a component of an electron. The binding energy is small compared to the mass-energy of the components. All that’s there is waves, with a frequency and a wavelength, moving in patterns. The electron pattern is like this O, but it’s a double loop. The pion pattern is like this: 8, and again it’s a double loop.
    Yes, free waves combine with local standing waves. Then the local standing waves move. That’s what happens in Compton scattering. You shave a “slice” off the incident photon and slap it onto the electron. So the electron wave isn’t symmetrical any more. So the electron moves.
    No, negative pion + twist ≠ electron. I’m sorry Pavel. Pions are ephemera. Forget them.
    As for 3 types of neutrino, I think that’s a claim that lacks support. The neutrino is classed as a lepton when it’s more like the photon than the electron. Which is a photon stuck in a double loop. See the Wikipedia muon neutrino article. It doesn’t say much, does it? Perhaps I should write about muons and muon neutrinos.
    No, the electron is not a spherical body. Its field is what it is.
    The charged pions might have spin 0, but that doesn’t mean there’s no spin. It’s like singlet-state positronium. But, yes charge and spin are somewhat independent. A neutrino has spin, but no charge. However a charged particle has spin, even if two parts of that spin are equal and opposite. Annihilation is when the path changes from a closed path to a linear path.

    Yes, Pauli predicted a new wave. But a particle is a wave. So that wasn’t an error set in stone with a Nobel prize.
    All particles with mass have charge. However some particles have negative charge and positive charge in equal measure. Hence they have no net charge.
    Yes, I suppose the twist is the standing version of neutrino wave. And yes, twist exists separately from charge. A neutrino has spin, but no charge.

  18. Saying about error of Pauli, which was made very stable (fixated) further after and due to Nobel, I mean that waves propagating and particles local should be distinguished for correct understanding. Particle (of the matter) was pieces costituting matter by definition, and waves propagating were forms of energy snd that was correct definitions. Now they are mixed. That misconception to mix different.
    Einstein stabilized that misconception by idea of photon.
    Not fixing (removing) error – stabilizing error, creating a paradigm of it. Fixating.
    Followers, I think, spoiled photon idea even worse. As that rediculous that they affenced Maxwell for not quantized field, but made not just quants of his idea. They made complitely different object.
    Compare photon to Maxwell idea more deeply. You will be shocked, John, as I am schocked.
    Spin considered for proton is 1. I has spirality at propagation by concept (!). Photon correspond to circular polarisation of wave (!), and DOES NOT correspond to original well known planar Maxwell wave propagation.
    Neither Maxwell nor Einstein did not speak something similar. That is crazy. Einstein just postulated that it should be some quants and it should be possibility to represent that quants as it were particles, for explanations of some phenomena – idea of photons.
    Concept of Maxwell and Einstein were silently changed. Who made that?

  19. Was correct idea of Einstein that we can consider compact propagating waves (energy quants) as particles (photons) in interactions with matter and some other similar applications?
    Yes, of course.
    But should we do it all the time? Should we mix matter and energy forever?
    No, of course.
    The last is alchemy. Misterious fake instead of science.
    The science is dividing phenomenon to categories and studying them. Not mixing all in one heap.
    Particles and waves are manifestations of energy. But should be considered separetly for correct understanding. Now they are mixed.

    1. I read the first paper. It’s good stuff. Thanks for telling me about it. I wish this sort of thing got more publicity. Here’s a few notes:
      This is not a good assumption on page 2: ”If we take those two extremely accurate figures and assume that the electron’s charge rotates in a circle at the speed of light”. However it pays off because they say the length around the loop = π × 7.72318536 × 10ˉ¹³ m = 2.426310 × 10 ˉ¹² m. However they don’t know that it’s a phase-invariant double loop, like this:

      On page 4 they say this “the thickness of this charged layer may be very thin and possibly sinusoidal distributed around the perimeter of the loop”. They should play around with a sinusoidal strip of paper and make a spinor out of it. See Wikipedia: Then they’d realise that charge is just what we call it when the minima and maxima of the sinusoidal field variation combine to make an all-round standing field. Funnily enough they mentioned Williamson and van der Mark on page 3, but didn’t pursue their double loop. Instead they talked about the original 1.022 MeV photon being composed of a “rotating charge separation”. In their figure 1 I’d say they’ve got the front and back parts of the photon occupying the same space. I think their postulate 4 is uncalled for – virtual photons are virtual. I also think that they should think more about space with an all-round curvature, and TQFT. On page 4 they talk about the photon as an electric wave and a magnetic wave, but it’s an electromagnetic wave.
      Their Loop de Loop hypothesis sounds great. Sadly it needs more work, because the mass is inversely proportional to the Compton wavelength, and muon decay involves neutrinos.
      But it’s good to read things like this. Thanks again. PS: I’ve just had a quick look at the second paper by Donald Bowen alone, called The Real Reason Why the Electron’s Bare g-Factor Is 2 Times Classical. He still doesn’t have the double loop. I’ll read it properly tomorrow. I’ll also take a look at Mac Gregor’s electron model.

  20. Here is a link to a Quora answer to the Question It was interesting to note her views on need for physics to relate to the underlying physical reality rather than getting lost in abstract maths. It was interesting to note her attraction to the vortex description of the electron. She is currently an active PhD researcher at the university of Hamburg. I thought it was useful context in regards of the nature of the issues discussed on this page.

  21. Thanks Andy. That looks interesting. It’s good to see university PhDs talking about this sort of thing nowadays. Merry Christmas!

  22. I have been reading with interest your discussion threads on the electron and positron, and find it a pretty good overview of the options out there. I do have a few comments I would like to make but it requires the use of figures. As the reply looks to be only text based I have placed my reply on my Google cloud space and it can be referenced as:

    1. David: Sorry to be slow replying. I’ve had family here for Christmas and New Year.
      Yes, you’re right about the Stern-Gerlach experiment. I wrote this article before I’d written about magnetism. Perhaps I should improve it, and use the NMR image from my nuclear force article, see There’s two possible orientations for the smaller magnet. Magnetism is most definitely the result of a real rotation. The electron’s spin precesses in a uniform magnetic field, so the electron moves in a circular path. However in a non-uniform magnetic field the path is not circular, and this results in the observed motion of the silver atom – either up or down depending on the orientation of the electron spin in relation to the silver atom. It’s more complicated than the football free-kick analogy.
      I don’t know what to say about the spin direction in the Chudo article being at odds with the Matsua image. Both feature an anticlockwise rotation when looking from the top, and both give a B field arrow pointing upwards. Is there some difference because Chudo et al are talking about nuclei as opposed to electrons?
      Yes, the Bowen and Mulkern material sounds promising. But I feel sure charge is there because of a rotating wave. See It’s the wave that’s sinusoidal, it’s the wave that’s progressing around the loop at the speed of light. But it also twists Mobius-style, so a field variation looks like a standing field. In addition it goes round the loop twice. Do try it making a Mobius strip starting with a sinusoidal paper strip. When you do, I think you’ll think like me: I think the tadpole or sperm-like photons are wrong I’m afraid. However as you can gather, I also think the Parson’s concept of a loop of continuous charge for an electron is wrong too. It’s the wave going round and round, and the result is charge. It isn’t charge going round and round. Anyway, I think a lot of people are part right, but not all right. Doubtless the same is true for me. I hope I’m receptive to corrections.
      I think the hairy doughnut is topologically correct in that it doesn’t have a cowlick, and nor does the electron electromagnetic field. But I don’t think the electron is actually hairy. I think the trick of it is to inflate the Mobius strip to a torus, then inflate the torus to a spherical spindle-sphere torus, then treat the latter as the eye of the storm. It isn’t some billiard-ball thing in the middle. The electron is its field. It isn’t something that has a field, it is field. I agree that virtual photons are not required, and that the toroidal electron is getting closer to its true nature. We can make electrons out of light waves in gamma-gamma pair production. Then we can diffract them. Standing wave, standing field. Then we annihilate the electron with a positron and we get our photons back. What’s not to like?

  23. Thanks for this nice work. I read it with pleasure and hope it might stimulate others also. As a historical note: Lorentz was not aware that the electron had a magnetic moment. He only learned about it shortly before he died, but was very intrigued by it as he directly wrote a paper to enhance his electron model and presented this at a Como conference in 1927. Unfortunately he used a spherical charge distributon rotating around an axis and found that the rotational speed was not constant, probably due to radiation leaving the electron. Anyhow, when he would have taken a toroid distribution he might have found a stationary solution.

    1. Utmost apologies Victor. For some reason your comment went into the spam folder, and I didn’t see it until now because I’ve been too busy of late. Thanks for the information re Hendrik Lorentz. I looked at his book on The Theory of Electrons hoping to see something like de Broglie’s closed path or Schrodinger’s wave group or the Williamson / van der Mark electron, but couldn’t find anything. I am reminded that there are many great men who I have not written about, and that Lorentz is most definitely one of them. I am remiss.

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