The classical theory of electric and magnetic fields, both in the static and dynamic case. Also covers general questions about magnets, electric attraction/repulsion etc. Distinct from electrical-engineering.

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Can tin foil hats block anything?

This is joked about all the time, but... Can tin foil hats actually block anything? If they can, what frequencies? Is there any research into tin or aluminum foil and radio blocking or amplifying ...
72
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10answers
8k views

How can I stand on the ground? EM or/and Pauli?

There is this famous example about the order difference between gravitational force and EM force. All the gravitational force of Earth is just countered by the electromagnetic force between the ...
68
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1answer
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Does the 4/3 problem of classical electromagnetism remain in quantum mechanics?

In Volume II Chapter 28 of the Feymann Lectures on Physics, Feynman discusses the infamous 4/3 problem of classical electromagnetism. Suppose you have a charged particle of radius $a$ and charge $q$ ...
66
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6answers
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How do moving charges produce magnetic fields?

I'm tutoring high school students. I've always taught them that: A charged particle moving without acceleration produces an electric as well as a magnetic field. It produces an electric field ...
66
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10answers
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Can Maxwell's equations be derived from Coulomb's Law and Special Relativity?

As an exercise I sat down and derived the magnetic field produced by moving charges for a few contrived situations. I started out with Coulomb's Law and Special Relativity. For example, I derived the ...
51
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8answers
7k views

How can Magnets be used to pick up pieces of metal when the force from a magnetic field does no work?

I learned that the force from magnetic fields does no work. However I was wondering how magnets can be used to pick up pieces of metal like small paperclips and stuff. I also was wondering how magnets ...
46
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7answers
7k views

Cyclist's electrical tingling under power lines

It's been happening to me for years. I finally decided to ask users who are better with "practical physics" when I was told that my experience – that I am going to describe momentarily – prove that I ...
45
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7answers
4k views

Do Maxwell's Equations overdetermine the electric and magnetic fields?

Maxwell's equations specify two vector and two scalar (differential) equations. That implies 8 components in the equations. But between vector fields $\vec{E}=(E_x,E_y,E_z)$ and ...
44
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12answers
11k views

Home experiments to derive the speed of light?

Are there any experiments I can do to derive the speed of light with only common household tools?
43
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1answer
54k views

How does this “simple” electric train work?

In this YouTube video, a dry cell battery, a wound copper wire and a few magnets (see image below) are being used to create what can be described as "train". It looks fascinating but how does this ...
42
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7answers
20k views

Does electricity flow on the surface of a wire or in the interior?

I was having a conversation with my father and father-in-law, both of whom are in electric related work, and we came to a point where none of us knew how to proceed. I was under the impression that ...
39
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4answers
12k views

Why doesn't light, which travels faster than sound, produce a sonic boom?

I know that when an object exceeds the speed of sound ($340$ m/s) a sonic boom is produced. Light which travels at $300,000,000$ m/s, much more than the speed of sound but doesn't produce a sonic ...
37
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5answers
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Does a constantly accelerating charged particle emit EM radiation or not?

The Abraham-Lorentz force gives the recoil force, $\mathbf{F_{rad}}$, back on a charged particle $q$ when it emits electromagnetic radiation. It is given by: $$\mathbf{F_{rad}} = \frac{q^2}{6\pi ...
37
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4answers
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How wrong are the classical Maxwell's equations (as compared to QED)?

Now, I don't really mean to say that Maxwell's equations are wrong. I know Maxwell's equations are very accurate when it comes to predicting physical phenomena, but going through high school and now ...
36
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4answers
1k views

Is there an underlying physical reason why the Coriolis force is similar to the magnetic component of the Lorentz force?

I couldn't help but notice that the expression for the magnetic component of the Lorentz force, $$\mathbf F = q\,\mathbf v \times \mathbf B\,,$$ is very similar in its mathematical form to the ...
34
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6answers
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What was Feynman's “much better way of presenting the electrodynamics” — which did **not** appear in the Feynman lectures?

Does anyone know what Feynman was referring to in this interview which appears at the beginning of The Feynman Tips on Physics? Note that he is referring to something that did not appear in the ...
31
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4answers
19k views

Why do electrons occupy the space around nuclei, and not collide with them?

We all learn in grade school that electrons are negatively-charged particles that inhabit the space around the nucleus of an atom, that protons are positively-charged and are embedded within the ...
30
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4answers
7k views

What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium?

So light travels slower in glass (for example) than in a vacuum. What causes light to slow down? Or: How does it slow down? If light passes through the medium, is it not essentially traveling in the ...
30
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6answers
2k views

Why does only one side of a neon lamp glow?

When applying DC to a neon lamp, only the negatively-charged electrode glows: The voltages across the lamps are left: DC (left lead positive), middle: DC (right lead positive), and right: AC. ...
28
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9answers
7k views

Is there an intuitive explanation for why Lorentz force is perpendicular to a particle's velocity and the magnetic field?

The Lorentz force on a charged particle is perpendicular to the particle's velocity and the magnetic field it's moving through. This is obvious from the equation: $$ \mathbf{F} = q\mathbf{v} \times ...
27
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6answers
3k views

Is a suit that hides a soldier's heat signature fundamentally possible?

I recently played "Crysis", a game where the protagonist wears a suit that allows the player to hide both himself and his heat signature. Then I watched Iron Man 3, where a kid suggests that Tony ...
27
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7answers
6k views

Is it theoretically possible to shield gravitational fields or waves?

Electromagnetic waves can be shielded by a perfect conductor. What about gravitational fields or waves?
27
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7answers
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What happens to the magnetic field in this case?

As far as I know, it's possible to create a radially polarised ring magnet, where one pole is on the inside, and the field lines cross the circumference at right angles. So imagine if I made one ...
25
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7answers
3k views

Why are the electric force and magnetic force classified as electromagnetism?

I confuse the four kinds of fundamental interactions, so I think the electric force and magnetic force should not be classified as a big class called electromagnetism. Here is my evidence: The ...
25
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10answers
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What equation describes the wavefunction of a single photon?

The Schrödinger equation describes the quantum mechanics of a single massive non-relativistic particle. The Dirac equation governs a single massive relativistic spin-½ particle. The photon is a ...
25
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6answers
18k views

What non-metal is attracted by a magnet?

Are there any non-metal objects that are attracted by magnets?
25
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6answers
7k views

Does a magnetic field do work on an intrinsic magnetic dipole?

When you release a magnetic dipole in a nonuniform magnetic field, it will accelerate. I understand that for current loops (and other such macroscopic objects) the magnetic moment comes from moving ...
24
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5answers
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Why do we deal only with large scale magnetic fields in astrophysics, and not electric fields?

In astrophysics there is a lot going on about strong, large scale magnetic fields: in stars (prominences), magnetic dynamos, compact accretors collimating jets, etc. There's even a special ...
24
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4answers
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Is Biot-Savart law obtained empirically or can it be derived?

There's already a question like this here so that my question could be considered duplicate, but I'll try to make my point clear that this is a different question. Is there a way to derive ...
23
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2answers
2k views

Is it (practically) possible for a large building to be a Faraday cage?

In my sophomore year of high school, my P.E. teachers kept on complaining about how phones didn't have a network connection in our gym, regardless of model, service provider, etc. A couple of feet ...
23
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5answers
3k views

How are forces “mediated”?

I hope this is the right word to use. To me, these forces seem kind of fanciful (except for General Relativity and Gravity, which have a geometric interpretation). For example, how do two charged ...
23
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5answers
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Phase shift of 180 degrees on reflection from optically denser medium

Can anyone please provide an intuitive explanation of why phase shift of 180 degrees occurs in the Electric Field of a EM wave,when reflected from an optically denser medium? I tried searching for it ...
23
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4answers
2k views

Is the existence of electromagnetic standing waves dependent on the observers reference frame?

If I take two plane EM waves travelling in opposite direction e.g. $E = E_0 \sin(kx-\omega t)$ and $E=E_0 \sin (kx + \omega t)$, they sum to give a standing wave with a time-averaged Poynting vector ...
23
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3answers
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What is the answer to Feynman's Disc Paradox?

[This question is Certified Higgs Free!] Richard Feynman in Lectures on Physics Vol. II Sec. 17-4, "A paradox," describes a problem in electromagnetic induction that did not originate with him, but ...
23
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2answers
908 views

Do intergalactic magnetic fields imply an Open Universe?

According to a paper on the arXiv (now published in Phys Rev D), they do. How credible is this result? The abstract says: The detection of magnetic fields at high redshifts, and in empty ...
22
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2answers
4k views

Can sugar be affected by a magnetic field?

While I was making a morning coffee at work, some sugar from the spoon started to fly away, seemingly towards some foam cups. Can this be explained by magnetism?
22
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3answers
4k views

Extra strong magnet which doesn't demagnetize credit cards. How does it work?

I've just bought this case for my mobile phone. It has three credit card slots, which isn't strange at all, but in combination with a strong magnet closure, it almost seems a bit stupid, because, who ...
22
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3answers
1k views

Why do we need 12 atoms to store 1 bit of data?

Recent research at IBM has found a way to store 1 bit of data in 12 atoms. While that is a big accomplishment compared to what we have today, it does seem like a waste to a non-physics eye like me. ...
22
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5answers
5k views

Does alternating current (AC) require a complete circuit?

This popular question about "whether an AC circuit with one end grounded to Earth and the other end grounded to Mars would work (ignoring resistance/inductance of the wire)" was recently asked on the ...
22
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4answers
2k views

Detection of the Electric Charge of a Black Hole

By the "No Hair Theorem", three quantities "define" a black hole; Mass, Angular Momentum, and Charge. The first is easy enough to determine, look at the radius of the event horizon and you can use the ...
22
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4answers
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What is the magnetic field inside hollow ball of magnets?

Setup: we have a large number of thin magnets shaped such that we can place them side by side and eventually form a hollow ball. The ball we construct will have the north poles of all of the magnets ...
21
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4answers
4k views

Is one way glass possible?

I am not talking about mirrors, just a plain window made of glass like material. Would it be possible to allow light pass only in one direction but not the other?
21
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5answers
3k views

How can there be net linear momentum in a static electromagnetic field (not propagating)?

I understand from basic conservation of energy and momentum considerations, it is clear in classical electrodynamics that the fields should be able to have energy and momentum. This leads to the usual ...
21
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3answers
5k views

The exchange of photons gives rise to the electromagnetic force

Pardon me for my stubborn classical/semiclassical brain. But I bet I am not the only one finding such description confusing. If EM force is caused by the exchange of photons, does that mean only when ...
21
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4answers
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Why do Maxwell's equations contain each of a scalar, vector, pseudovector and pseudoscalar equation?

Maxwell's equations, in differential form, are $$\left\{\begin{align} \vec\nabla\cdot\vec{E}&=~\rho/\epsilon_0,\\ \vec\nabla\times\vec B~&=~\mu_0\vec J+\epsilon_0\mu_0\frac{\partial\vec ...
21
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1answer
2k views

Flux through a Mobius strip

I was sent here from mathoverflow, hoping for a complete answer to this: === A friend of mine asked me what is the flux of the electric field (or any vector field like $$ \vec r=(x,y,z)\mapsto ...
21
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2answers
1k views

Local explanation of the Aharonov-Bohm effect in terms of force fields

Here is an interesting paper for the Physics SE community: On the role of potentials in the Aharonov-Bohm effect. Lev Vaidman. Phys. Rev. A 86 no. 4, 040101 (R) (2012). arXiv:1110.6169 ...
21
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2answers
761 views

Covariant Description of Light Scattering at a fastly rotating Cylinder

Let us consider the following Gedankenexperiment: A cylinder rotates symmetric around the $z$ axis with angular velocity $\Omega$ and a plane wave with $\mathbf{E}\text{, }\mathbf{B} \propto ...
20
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6answers
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Could a hard drive actually have been erased as described in Cryptonomicon?

In chapter 80, The Primary, Neal Stephenson has one of his character describe how the drives of a computer carried through a door (by the police, who where raiding the facility) will have been erased. ...
20
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3answers
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Is the EmDrive, or “Relativity Drive” possible?

In 2006, New Scientist magazine published an article titled Relativity drive: The end of wings and wheels1 [1] about the EmDrive [Wikipedia] which stirred up a fair degree of controversy and some ...