How is the Coulomb force transmitted?

In summary, the conversation discusses the current understanding of the phenomenon of two charged particles attracting each other according to Coulomb's law. The discussion includes ideas about whether the particles exchange photons, the concept of virtual photons, and the role of the electric field in this process. There is also mention of the difficulty in experimentally determining the exact mechanism of this force.
  • #1
derio
1
0
Hi everybody, I'd like to pose a few questions that I've had for ages. I haven't found any answers except "read some Quantum Field Theory" so I'd appreciate an explanation in layman's (or in "science educated but not at all expert") terms.

Suppose we have two small charges, one positive and one negative in some macroscopic distance. They attract according to Coulomb's law.

In classical physics, as time goes by, they move together and then collide (if their initial velocity is zero or lies in the line connecting the charges' centers) and what happens next depends on several things (eg if they are metal spheres with equal charge they can exchange electrons and be both neutral, if they are insulated they continue to attract etc) but this does not concern me in this question.

What concerns me is what is the current understanding of this phenomenon:

  1. I know that the carrier of the EM force is the photon, does this mean that the charges send photons back and forth all the time? Or is it, in macroscopic distances, the form of the EM field that is changing with time, with no individual photons taking part?
  2. I've heard about "virtual photons" called "virtual" because they cannot be detected without cancelling the effect they produce (ie the attraction). But, looking at Feynman diagrams I got the impression that these exchanges happen when the individual particles are close in space.So, if the above is true also in macroscopic scales, ie charges exchange photons all the time, shouldn't there be a "virtual photons density" of some kind for a typical problem? Is there such a density?
  3. Furthermore, if this is the case, how come the charges attract? The exchanged photons carry momentum which should push the charges apart, not bring them together.
  4. Another thing I haven't understood is what happens with the EM field. If the charges are alone in the universe then if the field extends beyond them that would mean that it continually loses energy (radiated to space). Is this the case? If so, if there where only one charge (which still has electric field around it) whould it somehow lose energy as time passes?

I'm sure I have a lot of misconceptions but I've had these questions for a long time and have yet to find an authoritative answer.

Thanks for any help.
 
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  • #2
virtual photons are just a mathematical concept, a remnant from a perturbation series.

the answer has thus many answers, all which are conceptual since we can not determine experimentally HOW the force IS mediated.
 

1. What is the Coulomb force?

The Coulomb force, also known as electrostatic force, is the force of attraction or repulsion between two charged particles. It is caused by the interaction of electric fields created by the charges.

2. How is the Coulomb force calculated?

The Coulomb force is calculated using Coulomb's law, which states that the magnitude of the force between two charged particles is directly proportional to the product of their charges, and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. The equation for Coulomb's law is F = k(q1q2)/r^2, where F is the force, k is the Coulomb constant, q1 and q2 are the charges of the particles, and r is the distance between them.

3. How is the Coulomb force transmitted through space?

The Coulomb force is transmitted through space by electric fields. When a charged particle creates an electric field, it exerts a force on any other charged particles in its vicinity. This force is transmitted through the electric field, and the charged particles experience the Coulomb force as a result.

4. Why is the Coulomb force important in everyday life?

The Coulomb force plays a crucial role in many everyday phenomena. For example, it is responsible for the attraction between protons and electrons in atoms, the formation of chemical bonds, the functioning of electronic devices, and even the behavior of lightning bolts. Without the Coulomb force, many of the processes that we take for granted would not occur.

5. How does the Coulomb force relate to other fundamental forces?

The Coulomb force is one of the four fundamental forces in nature, along with gravity, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. It is the force responsible for all electromagnetic interactions, and it is the only force that acts between particles with electric charge. The other fundamental forces have different mechanisms and are responsible for different types of interactions between particles.

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