In a study of classical electrodynamics the dynamics of an electron appears to be an open question - on which a lot of interesting work has been completed, for example Hendrick Lorentz and Paul Drude, some of it very recent. This is also related to the Abraham-Minkowski controversy, which some claim is resolved and some claim is not. The crucial problem seems to be in all cases that the response of matter to a power flux is hard to determine.

This is an example of recent work: Gralla, Samuel E., Harte, Abraham I., Wald, and Robert M. "A Rigorous Derivation of Electromagnetic Self-force." There have been some very good advances, but they have taken 100 years to come to fruition.

I had heard, in passing, a statement that general relativity resolves this problem, determining the dynamics. However, I have not been able to find any work that seems to shed much light on the question. And my own thinking on it right now is that GR inherits the same problems as CEM (Maxwell-Lorentz electrodynamics) and SR.

I asked this question in a positive sense The path of an electron in general relativity

But, the answers suggest that there is no real answer.

So, I ask the question now in an explicit negative sense - is there no known answer?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have an idea on how an electron could classically be described? $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '18 at 14:32
  • $\begingroup$ There is quite a lot of work on this. Possibly a good place to start is Hendrick Lorentz - The theory of Electrons. And I would also suggest Paul Drude - The theory of optics. Also, check out the work on Stochastic Electrodynamics, which has recently produced numerical confirmation of classical models of the Hydrogen atom. Also, search on the problem of "self force" and the Abraham-Minkowski controversy. A point particle is taken as the limit of a finite distribution. Its properties depend on the way the limit was taken. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '18 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ I am neither promoting nor demoting the classical theory of the atom. I am studying it and trying to understand its relation to the quantum theories. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '18 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ I was more interested in if you had a new theory. The way you posed your question I wasn’t sure. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 '18 at 23:33
  • $\begingroup$ For what it is worth - I do. My questions here are motivated by trying to work out whether I am doing anything new and worthwhile, or just kidding myself. I don't want to put my own theory forward yet. I want to complete some of the algebra, and use it to retrodict some experimental values. If all that works out, I'll put it out there. $\endgroup$ Jul 18 '18 at 3:58

I am answering this question mainly for anyone who comes upon it later. The question has not turned out to provoke much interest on physics stack exchange.

To the best of my understanding as of the time of writing ...

Yes it is an open question. But, also, there has been a lot of work on the problem, and in a sense, this is open because physics itself is open. It is possible for the definitive dynamics of the electron might be formulated completely and clearly. Several strong attempts have been made. But, in a century or so, while clear and non-trivial theoretical and experimentally valid results have been obtained, it seems unlikely that the one true answer will turn up soon. But, this does not stand in the way of theoretical or technological progress.


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