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The electron

  1. Oct 22, 2009 #1
    Without mathematics or interpretations, can anyone claim to know absolutely for sure right now what the exact nature of the electron is?

    If so, what is the exact nature of the electron? What is its physical real-life structure (no models, interpretations, etc). I am clear on how it behaves in electricity, EMF, chemical bonds, photo-electric effect, but still its actual structure itself and physical nature eludes me.

    Thanks to any that answer.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you'll have to come up with a definition of "exact nature". What is the exact nature of love? Of music? Of heat? Of a dog?
  4. Oct 22, 2009 #3
    To answer my question, without going into philosophical arguments, lets just assume for the sake of conversation that the following dashed items are a given:
    - There is an objective truth that can be understood using logical reasoning.
    - We measure and observe reality to deduce facts about objective truth (the pursuit of truth/science).
    - We are limited only by our ability to understand, the tools with which we observe, and the underlying objective truth from which we emerged.

    I can't be more plain than the original question. The underlying causation of those things you listed do not require that we explain them in order for them to exist. Their nature, their fundamental and absolute truth, exists regardless of whether or not you or I speak the same language, are human or not, or know of them or not.

    When I asked about the exact nature of the electron, I was referring to this unalienable reality of absolute truth that exists beneath all the layers of thought we put atop everything. I was seeking for the actual truth about the electron. I modified the word "nature" to be the exact nature because there are a lot ideas out there about what the electron might be: particle, wave, matter-wave, fermion field, a folded string, "spooky," the QED interpretation, Copenhagen interpretation, varying imagery of the atomic structure, on, and on, and on.

    Is there anyone that can explain the electron in English, without using the language of Mathematics (not that I dislike this language), to someone in a way that is as close to its exact nature, that is alive today?

    To further specify exact nature:

    - What is the physical (non-abstract/non-modeled/non-mathematical) structure of the electron?
    - A physical particle?
    - The quanta of a specific type of wave? (Distinct from a light wave)
    - A string, looped and folded?
    - A piece of indivisible (discrete) matter?
    - We do not know?
    - Does the Plank constant have any relation?
    - Does the Fine Structure constant have any relation to atomic structure? And by relation, the electron?
    - What is the actual (non-abstract/non-modeled/non-mathematical/non-theoretical) behavior of the electron?
    - Explain the most fundamental causality of orbitals?
    - Explain the most fundamental causality of electron transit to varying energy states?
    - Explain the most fundamental causality of the electromagnetic force?

    Further, all of these questions and more would need to be answered with exact answers. An "exact" answer meet the following criteria:
    - It matches the actual objective reality of the electron as close as humanly possible.
    - It is based on statistical analysis that has been repeated to a high degree.
    - It remains true regardless of the scale of reality it is considered or system applied to.
    - It can be expressed with logic, and thereby, by mathematics, or any language capable of logic.
    - It has no holes; it does not lead to more questions. This is not the same as excluding fundamental questions, just gaps in any macroscopic level of discussion must not be present. I am willing to accept there is a microscopic or fundamental layer below any preceding explanation, but any given explanation must not have gaps in reasoning (QED for example, great explanation, but "hocus pocus" mathematics -- I am quoting Feynman)

    I could add more, but I am diluting the original question. I am not asking about all of quantum mechanics, just the electron (I realize, "just" the electron is asking a lot).

    Thanks to any that take up this question. I have been unable to find a professor, physicist, or expert that knows the answer. Nor any science text book. All of it fails to meet the criteria for being an exact answer.

    Finally, I would settle for a consensus of: "We do not know the exact nature of the electron... yet." If that is the present state of knowledge regarding it. I would be satisfied then and continue my education and research. I do not expect omniscience, just honesty.

    Thanks in advance to all who take this question seriously as it has bothered me for a very long time.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
  5. Oct 22, 2009 #4
    1truth - surely you know there is no answer to your question. we do not know the fundamental nature of anything that i can think of. the electron, to the best of our knowledge, is a point particle - it occupies no volume. in my book, that is about tantamount to pure magic, and on par with just about every aspect of quantum physics. as feynman used to say, "Remember the two-slit experiement? It's just like that." (ie, you cannot understand it...)
  6. Oct 22, 2009 #5
    There is no generally accepted definition of "physical" versus "mathematical".

    There is no accepted definition of "objective reality". For example, if we stand on the basis of Macroscopic Realism, then only macroscopic events are "real", and electorns do not exist - they just a mathematical trick used to calculate the correlation between the macroscopic events. If we stand on the MWI ground, then there is an objective reality - Universe wavefunction, but the "observer" is not defined objectively.

    Finally, you can't explain it in English without mathematics because English does not have words for such things.
  7. Oct 22, 2009 #6
    An electron is a strongly interacting particle. Although it is thought to be point-like, it has infinitely long hands in all directions to interact. It is very sticky. It carries the smallest electrical charge observed so far. It has a mechanical angular momentum and magnetic momentum. It is a fermion. It comes together with the quantized electromagnetic filed, so it is never alone. Pushing an electron disturbs the internal harmony of it and the quantized EMF, so the EMF gets exited (photon radiation). Together with the quantized EMF it forms a compound system with internal degrees of freedom (photon oscillators) and it takes a lot of space and tries to stick to everything.
  8. Oct 22, 2009 #7
    Getting really warm here. I like this answer.

    Bob, thanks so much for taking the time to state these facts. While I understand much of what you have said here and none of it comes as a surprise, it brings up a few clarification questions:

    1. Do you agree that the electron itself does not exist, but is a connotation for a point-measurement (like a phonon) to describe the quantization of a fermion field?
    2. How can something made purely of field energy have mass? Is this due to its momentum?
    3. Question 2 leads me into another major thread I was going to start about inertia. Does the electron then also have inertia?
    4. I gather that it is sticky. Does this relate to the Coulomb's laws?
    5. If it extends to everywhere, is it part of some sort of infinite field? This part was a little confusing that it extends to all directions. We are really getting away from the notion that it is a singular entity. This makes it sound like it is but a drop from some unbounded n-dimensional plane? Very confused if that is your meaning.

    Thanks again! I feel as though I am getting a better understanding.

    I realize that the question is very difficult to answer, but it is certainly not impossible. Analyzing an object like an cube sculpture sitting on a desk, without going into reductionism, we know all about it. We know its exact nature: what it is made of, what temperature it is, mass, volume, conductivity, reluctance, etc, etc. We can say with all reasonable human ability we know almost all there is to know about that object without further reducing it and so long as we do not apply reductivism.

    This is what I am asking about the electron. It is not an unanswerable question.

    Hope to see more explanations,
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2009
  9. Oct 22, 2009 #8
    Electron exists, that's for sure and fermi-statistics does not invalidate it. Electron can make traces, so it is not just a dot on a photo-film.
    Electron has mass, it is an experimental fact. The filed "nature" is more related to theoretical speculations.
    Yes, it has. The electron equations contain it.
    Yes, the field is extended to infinity. A singular (1/r) potential is rather simple - it depends only on distance so one may have an impression of a point-like electron. Nevertheless, unlike neutral atoms of noble gases, it is capable of interacting at very long distances that makes me feel it is as big as its Coulomb field.
  10. Oct 22, 2009 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    Sure, priests and philosophers can.
  11. Oct 22, 2009 #10
    Bob, thanks again for all the answers. Can you recommend an authoritative source or the names of leading theorists of information that specializes on the nature of the electron? Especially as it pertains to the concept of it being part of an infinite field? This is the first time I have heard of the concept that the electron is part of such a field.
  12. Oct 22, 2009 #11
    In regards to Cathode Rays:

    "These conflicting properties caused disruptions when trying to classify it as a wave or particle. Crookes insisted it was a particle, whilst Hertz maintained it was a wave. The debate was resolved when an electric field was used to deflect the rays by J. J. Thomson. This evidence that the beams were composed of particles was strong because scientists knew it was impossible to deflect electromagnetic waves with an electric field."

    How does this relate to an electron that is part of an infinite field?
  13. Oct 23, 2009 #12
    The electron is the source of this field (a charge/current is a source of electromagnetic filed). The field is a way for intercation with other charges. The electron is charged itself so an external electric filed affects it. On the other hand, the electron posesses its own electric field too so it can interact with other charges. The electron's field lasts to far distances, that's why I say it is sticky.
  14. Oct 23, 2009 #13
    If it is part of an infinite field, why does the electron travel with finite speed when that field is disturbed? What decides the maximum velocity of an electron? Do electrons change velocity with conductivity of medium?
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