My question is loaded with assumptions so to minimize them, I would like to ask it with respect to an electron and anti-electron annihilating.

When I think of annihilation, I think of electron and positron turning into energy where the total energy represents the combined masses plus kinetic energy each particle had prior to the collision and annihilation (Assumption 1).

But, doesn't the field of each charged particle also have an energy content and does this energy content of the charged particle field show up in the final energy? I have never seen this though, only the sum of the mass energy. (Assumption 2 possibly).

Also, how is it that the masses annihilate if they are not ANTI to each other. Mass has no opposite like charge does (or other things). Does the annihilation of the charges also somehow annihilate the masses and if this is the case, that would require energy so this energy should show up somewhere. Or is there some other opposite "thing" that results in annihilation of mass?

Physicists used to think that electron mass was actually the inertia of moving charge in a field (or something like that). Is there some kind of connection between mass and charge such that charge annihilation is also mass annihilation?

  • $\begingroup$ The electron and positron don't turn "into energy" but into two photons. The energy in the field of a charged particle is part of the rest-mass of the particle, which is why we have definitions like the classical electron radius (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_electron_radius), which is a cutoff for the minimal radius at which classical electrodynamics can be a good theory to describe electrons. That's about three times the size of a proton and slightly larger than the size of a heavy nucleus. Mass doesn't annihilate, only charge does. The total mass-energy always stays the same. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jun 20, 2015 at 18:27
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne Yes, I knew this but not sure if the answer to my question is satisfied by this answer. What you seem to be saying (confirm?) is that the energy divided between the two photons is nothing other than $\frac{E}{c^2}$. Thus, when you say the mass doesn't annihilate, you are saying (I presume) it is still there in terms of the photon energy. But, what causes the mass to be changed into two photons? That is the essence of my question. Also, you seem to be saying that the annihilation of the charge doesn't change the energy of the system at all. Is that right? $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Jun 20, 2015 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ @CuriousOne Oh, I forgot to add one more thing to my comment above. I was under the impression that the rest mass of the particle is separate from the charge energy and that the so-called "classical radius" is a meaningless thing -- that is, although you can calculate it using regular classical physics, it actually is not a real thing given that then electron is considered a point particle. $\endgroup$
    – K7PEH
    Jun 20, 2015 at 20:00
  • $\begingroup$ Mass-energy is conserved. In the rest system of slow (!) particles two 511keV photons are produced, which is a very clean signature. Which processes are allowed are regulated by conserved quantum numbers. An electron has a lepton number of +1 and a positron is -1, photons are zero, so the left hand and right hand side of the equation $e+p\to \gamma + \gamma$ balances these numbers, just as it balances energy and momentum. That's not the only allowed process, of course. One can also get more than two photons and if the particles had high momenta, then other heavy particles can be produced. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jun 20, 2015 at 20:18
  • $\begingroup$ A complete description of all possible processes follows from relativistic field theory, more precisely from the standard model of high energy physics. That antiparticles which annihilate have to exist follows pretty directly from the fact that the universe is relativistic and quantum mechanical. That electrons and positrons with a mass of 511keV exist, on the other hand, does not follow from any deeper principle that we are aware of, yet. That's exactly what the search for the "Theory of Everything" is about. $\endgroup$
    – CuriousOne
    Jun 20, 2015 at 20:23

2 Answers 2


Here is the elementary particle table from which all others are built up , the standard model of particle physics.

elem part

Which shows the conserved quantum numbers that characterize the particles (columns and rows have quantum numbers assigned too) plus the measured masses. The quantum numbers have to "annihilate" to have an annihilation event, i.e. they should become 0 after annihilation. Mass is not a quantum number , it is a "length" in the energy momentum vector of the particles. Conservation of quantum numbers in interactions allow the mass to remain invariant. If quantum numbers are annihilated there is no constraint on the total energy momentum vector other than energy conservation, and the products allow that.

Here is a Feynman diagram of e+e- annihilation


There is no extra energy except the four vector of each incoming lepton. Charge is just a number counting attribute here.

Here is e+e- annihilation when the energies are large enough to create a muon pair

e+e- to mu mu

and a more complicated one into b bbar jets


In all these the quantum numbers annihilate on the left and new quantum numbers from 0 create pairs with oposite quantum numbers, according to the probabilities for the interaction at that energy.

In a nutshell: it is the quantum numbers that become annihilated/0 , freeing the energy momentum fourvectors to display their creativity :)


I wrote a paper in which I show that the electric field of a charged particle can be described as composed of two quanta. Two types of quanta are enough to describe the electric field, the magnetic field and photons. It was shown, why electron does not fall into nucleus and why annihilation happens between particle and anti-particle. A more deep explanation I gave in the paper about complex one-dimensional structures in space. But due to my bad English I'm not able to translate it.

Following the idea about electric, magnetic and EM field from two quanta the annihilation includes the full conversion of the electric fields from both particles into EM radiation.

  • $\begingroup$ I understand that science follows some ground truths. Formulating a deeper explanation encounters resistance. However, the resistance limited to the statement that this is not taught, is pathetic. An example in which the new view is reduced to absurdity, would be helpful. $\endgroup$ Jun 21, 2015 at 9:42
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Your paper makes no attempt to connect its ideas to experiment or demonstrate that experimentally observed results are better explained by it than by currently accepted models. Thus is is not possible to take seriously as physics. That is the bar all new theories must clear. $\endgroup$
    – paisanco
    Jun 29, 2015 at 1:32
  • $\begingroup$ @paisanco There are several aspects that I find interesting. First, the postulate that the electric field is finite. What are the consequences for the renormalization in QED? Second, the postulate, that the electric field actually has a field line structure and the interaction between the electron and the nucleus is limited by this. Third the postulate, that when a photon is absorbed by an electron, the photon quanta accumulate on the electron, increase its mass and cover up his charge. $\endgroup$ Jun 29, 2015 at 18:06

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