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What is an Electron?

November 28, 2012

What is an electron? For that matter, what is charge? Mathematically, it’s a discontinuity in the electric field associated with a resistance to acceleration (i.e. “mass”). The time-honored tradition is to create an electron from a charged sphere of some kind. The charge could be distributed on a spherical surface or be distributed within a spherical volume. Let’s take the case of a spherical charged surface. Of course, the spherical structure supporting the charge must be different from the surrounding space, otherwise the charge would fly off in the radial direction, so let’s say that it is a region of different permittivity and/or permeability from free space. Since it’s a physical structure, that structure could possibly rotate.

Now, we know from observation that an electron can orbit a proton at a given frequency without net radiation, which seems to be impossible in electromagnetic theory when you view the electron as a collection of charge. However, what happens when the electron is modeled as a charged sphere with an extremely high permittivity/permeability that can rotate?  Let’s look at the case where the increase in permittivity and permeability are proportional, so that there is no reflection at the sphere’s surface, just a decrease in the speed of light in the sphere. When this charged surface electron travels around a proton, its acceleration will produce two spherical electromagnetic waves: one moving outwards and one moving inwards. Since we’re doing a lot of handwaving already, let’s assume the following: the sphere isn’t rotating, the body carries the inward em wave with it as it moves in a circle, and the time for the inward em wave to traverse the body equals the time taken for charge to travel halfway around the proton. Well, that now-outward traveling wave will have an opposite sign compared to the new em wave generated by the electron’s circular path. Basically, it will reduce the subsequent outward wave due to the orbit. Is this how an electron is able to maintain a stable orbit around a proton?


From → physics

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