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Is the electron field a real thing?

  1. Mar 15, 2013 #1
    I'm not talking about electric fields here, but a separate field which is the cause of us being able to observe/measure/predict that there is an electron there.
    according to this video:

    An electron is an excitation in the electron field, just like a water wave is a excitation in a body of water.

    Is this true? Is this what an electron really is, or is this just a model, or an unproven idea?
    I'd quite like this to be true, its a really nice idea.

    Also, I study electrical engineering not physics, so please consider this when answering.

    Thank you!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 15, 2013 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    No, an electron is an excitation in the electrON field, not the electrIC field.
  4. Mar 15, 2013 #3
    Sorry that was a typing mistake, I'll correct it now.
  5. Mar 15, 2013 #4
    Well, strictly speaking, everything in physics is a model. But our best, most succesful model for the electron is that individual electrons are excitations of an underlying electron field.
  6. Mar 15, 2013 #5
  7. Mar 15, 2013 #6


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    Physics doesn't tell us what things really are. Terms like "electron" are defined by theories. Theories make predictions about results of experiments. Experiments tell us how accurate those predictions are.

    What we can say for sure is that there's a a theory that defines electrons that way and makes incredibly accurate predictions about the results of experiments, in situations where gravity can be neglected.
  8. Mar 15, 2013 #7
    Yeah, Matt's got a great site, and a great service he provides to those who seek some sanity in the crazy world of the standard model.


    I never liked this idea of a separate field for each elementary particle. It just seems so ad hoc and overcomplicated. Einstein would likely say that the good Lord would never have created a universe with all these redundant fields overlapping each other.

    @The Duck

    Right, and this I think is the crux of the matter, modern physics, in my humble opinion, is short on aesthetics and parsimony, and long on results. So as long as the model conforms to some degree of error to experimental results, who cares what the underlying scaffolding looks like. I mean, as long as my laptop fires up when I give it my voice command, who cares if my model posits the Mickey Mouse field to account for this or that effect. I'm not making a value judgement, do what you have to do boys to get my laptop working. But if your goal is to come to some aesthetic understanding of how this all works, that's what your stuck with...At least for now.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  9. Mar 15, 2013 #8
    Thanks Spinnor that was a great article, very interesting!

    And Fredrik and The Duck surely this isn't the case in all of physics. for example we know that matter is made of atoms. I wouldn't say that this was a model, this is an undisputable fact.
    I understand that just because we can see something, (like in the picture we have observed the shape of a H20 atom) it doesn't make any more real as our senses can deceive us from what reality is, but surely everyone can agree that matter IS made of atoms, and they DO look like this. This is real and not a model, or at least it satisfies the best requirements for what most people would say real means.
    In the same way then, can I say that the electron field is just as real as an atom?

    And if I was talking to a non physicist, I could tell them that "an electron is an excitation in a thing called the electron field, just like waves in the sea are an excitation in the body of water", and then blow there mind, and I wouldn't be misinforming them?
  10. Mar 15, 2013 #9


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    If we were to find the True Description of what an electron Really Is, how would we know that we've found it? :smile:
  11. Mar 15, 2013 #10
    Dirac Pool, I do want to have an aesthetic understanding, I know that it is useless, and that if the model works it doesn't matter what is really happening as we can still predict things, which is ultimately what science is. But I'm just curious. I need to know what is really happening, and I can't accept that this is not possible.
  12. Mar 15, 2013 #11
    jtbell are you refering to the uncertainty principle? I'm not a physicist so I do have a deep understanding of that. Or is this some philosophy about reality that I'm going to have to think about for a while before I understand what you mean haha.
  13. Mar 15, 2013 #12
    Indisputable? That implies the conclusion is beyond any assault from new evidence or thinking. Such a stance is counter to the modern philosophy of science. All theories are models which are tentative with respect to evidence, all of them. Models and observations - these are the realm of science. Considering what things "really" are is not science, its something else.

    So I, and I think most, would say this is the case in all of physics, and in all of science.

    Of course in day to day colloquial speak and operationally its easy and acceptable to interchange 99.99...99% confidence with 100% confidence. Philosophically and scientifically they are categorically distinct.
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2013
  14. Mar 15, 2013 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    An unhelpful quibble.
  15. Mar 15, 2013 #14


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    This is a good point. I think what I said is still valid, but your example shows that I at least need to figure out a good way to explain why. Unfortunately it's getting late, and I don't want to sit here all night. Maybe I'll try to explain this tomorrow. No promises though.

    The picture you posted shows a water droplet covered with polystyrene beads. :smile:

    I thought it looked a bit too good, so I searched for a description of the image and found it here: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/03/pr0328.htm. The picture below is however an image of some Niobium and Selenium atoms, as seen by a scanning tunneling microscope. I found it at this web page.


    I don't think i would say that, because the electron field isn't directly measurable.

    That's close enough in my opinion, so it's not misinformation.
  16. Mar 16, 2013 #15
    This is all very interesting. I can see what you mean that the electron field is not directly measurable, however I think after this discussion I am going to believe that for all intents and purposes the electron field is real.
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