Ships on a quantum sea

My latest post at Galileo’s Pendulum tests a way to explain quantum field theory to non-scientists, which I hope to put in my book-in-progress. Please go read the post, and let me know what you think!

Just as a ship moving through still water produces a wake, electrons create ripples in the ambient electromagnetic field. Those ripples are largest close to the electron and taper off over larger distances, becoming effectively zero. If another electron is nearby, the ripples they make will push the two particles apart. This is the quantum field version of the elementary school physics principle we all learned: “like electrical charges repel”. However, there’s a lot more going on! The ripples take time to travel between the electrons, so the interaction isn’t instantaneous. Also, they aren’t smooth waves like you get in water: they are themselves made of particles—specifically photons, particles of light. [Read more...]

%d bloggers like this: