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Absorber Theory, Retarded and Advanced Potentials

  1. Dec 12, 2011 #1
    Hello. I've been reading an interesting article by a pair of smart fellows...


    J. A. Wheeler, R. P. Feynman. "Classical Electrodynamics in Terms of Direct Interparticle Action". Reviews of Modern Physics. Volume 21. Number 3. 1949.

    I haven't actually taken Quantum Field Theory myself, but I've been trying to wrap my head around the idea of Retarded and Advanced Potentials. From what I've been able to piece together... a retarded potential is one which propagates at a finite speed. An advanced potential is one that propagates instantaneously?! Do I have these definitions correct?

    This article may be out of date... but it's interesting to hear his (Wheeler's) voice, the way he thinks...
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 12, 2011 #2
    Close, but no cigar!

    Retarded potentials travel from the past to the future an a finite speed.

    Advanced potentials travel from the future to the past at a finite speed.

    For example, an accelerated charge, A, at T1 radiates an retarded wave into the future which scatters another charge, B at T2 > T1. The acceleration of B radiates an advanced wave into the past which arrives at A at precisely T1. So the radiation reaction of charge A due to charge B is felt instantaneously by A. The article you quote was preceded by:


    which extensively discusses these advanced and retarded solutions.

  4. Dec 13, 2011 #3
    Oh. Thanks Skippy! :)
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