If light is a wave, what is waving?

  • #76
643
15
I feel any answer other than "the electric and magnetic fields" is more philosophical than scientific currently.

Isn't it worth considering fields to be transformational devices that manipulate and transform other qualities such as force, energy, potentials, momentum, polarization potentials, etc., in a consistent and physically meaningful way? In a sense, fields collect what we know about how those other qualities are coupled together. In analogy to house construction, they provide the blueprint, but not the physical realization of the framing, plumbing, electrical system and so forth.
 
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  • #77
47
0
First of all the field doesnt travel. It's just there, everywhere, including the vacuum. In reality the field is made up of quantized harmonic oscilators.

Fields can have directions, right? If they are "just there, everywhere", then how come fields are vector qantities?
 
  • #78
3,875
90
Fields can have directions, right? If they are "just there, everywhere", then how come fields are vector qantities?
Forces have directions, and as you can see in post #68, it seems that originally (and technically), fields were just the neighbourhoods where those forces were felt. However, later the term field strength (and sometimes simply "field") was used as a measure for the strength of forces that can be felt in the field - which includes directionality.

PS I'm amazed by this accurate intro in Wikipedia (although it is messed up by the there following "qualitative description"):
"In physics, an electric field is the region of space surrounding electrically charged particles and time-varying magnetic fields."
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_field
 
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