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There's only one electron

  1. Jan 16, 2009 #1
    Just flipping through one of my many easy reading books...

    Paul Davies 'About Time', 1995, Penguin p. 206...

    '(John) Wheeler proposed that all the electrons in the universe are really one and the same particle, simply bouncing back and forth in time...'

    'This offers a neat explanation for why all electrons appear to be identical'

    I have no idea how this came about and would love to know.
    In what way did he mean identical? I don't get it?
    Is/was there a more technical forumlation for this that made any predictions?
    I couldn't find the reference and I probably wouldn't be able to follow it as written anyhow.

    Has it been completely disgarded as an idea at any level? If so what was the clincher?

    The Feynman diagram for electron-positron interaction (sorry, can't manage to
    replicate it here!) indicates that 'the same electron' appears in two places at once?
    What about spin?

    I think that's more than enough....
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2009 #2
    I think what he mean is that there is one electron field. Electrons are just the excitation of that field. Similar, photons are the excitation of EM field. So they are all the same
  4. Jan 16, 2009 #3


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    No, he meant electron. Algthough I was under the impression that it was Feynman (note difference in spelling) who came up with that. Perhaps he got it from Wheeler and only popularized it.

    The idea is this. Suppose you have an electron coming in along a line from the left. Far to the right a gamma ray creates a positron-electron pair with the electron going to the right and the positron going to the right. Eventually the positron and the orginal electron coming from the left annhilate leaving only energy. Draw that in two dimensions with the horizontal axis being the line of motion and the vertical axis giving the time. What you will see is a single continous zig-zag line. If we interpret the positron as an electron moving backward in time, we see it as one particle being kicked backward and forward in time by bursts of energy. In that sense, there might well exist just one electron that is moving backward and forward in time!
  5. Jan 16, 2009 #4
    >>'(John) Wheeler proposed that all the electrons in the universe are really one and the same particle, simply bouncing back and forth in time...'

    Just one electron in the whole universe? That's hard to believe
  6. Jan 17, 2009 #5
    I've always considered it a pretty silly idea, and I think Wheeler (Feynman's doctoral advisor) was just playing with the idea that positrons are "electrons going backwards in time" when he came up with it.

    Actually, looking further I found a good discussion in Robert Oerter's recent book on the Standard Model, The Theory of Almost Everything (pages 102-104 in the hardcover edition):
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  7. Jan 17, 2009 #6
    thanks for the quote daschaich
    The 'missing antimatter' was also mentioned in Davies book although I did not
    quite gather from the text that the matter had been so completely settled.
  8. Jan 17, 2009 #7
    Didn't Bohm play with a similar idea when he was toying around with his implicate order ideas?
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2009
  9. Jan 21, 2009 #8
    Would you mind clarifing the following.

    I keep looking for an electron 'particle' and what is I see is a quanta of energy (with a wave) interacting with other quanta of energy. What is the true material nature of this particle? It has mass, but is the mass just the weight of the quanta of energy?

    Slightly embarradded to start a new post on this one.
  10. Jan 22, 2009 #9
    I cannot quite grasp if this means there is only one electron in the entire Cosmos or something else?
  11. Jan 22, 2009 #10
    Wheeler's idea was that the same electron could be traveling back and forth in time, so what looked like many (many!) electrons and positrons were really the same one. This idea was not correct, so stick with "something else".
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