I'm starting my graduation in physics and it may sound like a dumb question, but it's haunting my mind for days. It is known that the scattering of two electrons can be represented by the following Feynman diagram:

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But I wonder: How does the opposite happen? I mean, how does a positive particle attracts a negative one via photon mediation?

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    $\begingroup$ This... isn't how magnets attract. What you're asking about is electrostatic attraction. $\endgroup$ – probably_someone Dec 16 '19 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, but I'm talking more about what is the quantum explanation of the attraction, how do attraction happen physically. $\endgroup$ – Ergative Man Dec 16 '19 at 16:28
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    $\begingroup$ The full answer requires that you work out the momentum transferred via the photon. And the cool thing is, that depends on the relative sign of the particles involved. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Dec 16 '19 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ Also, treating a magnetic field (per your question's title) in terms of Feynman diagrams would be a chore. You are probably much better off doing that classically. $\endgroup$ – puppetsock Dec 16 '19 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ See math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Quantum/virtual_particles.html $\endgroup$ – PM 2Ring Dec 16 '19 at 16:58

It is very important that you understand the difference between a static EM field and EM radiation.

You are talking about static EM fields (two electrons repelling), and photon mediation, but in reality these are virtual photons, just a mathematical model to describe the effects of the static field.

An electromagnetic field (also EMF or EM field) is a magnetic field produced by moving electrically charged objects.[1] It affects the behavior of non-comoving charged objects at any distance of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature (the others are gravitation, weak interaction and strong interaction).


Now in reality, at the QM level, you cannot imagine the virtual photons as classical billiard balls that fly between the two electrons, because then that will lead you to a confusing picture about attraction. How could you throw these billiard balls between an electron and a proton and get attraction? In reality you can't and at the QM level this is not how it works, virtual photons are not billiard balls.

In reality, we do not know how the static EM field around the electron and the proton (or two electrons) work, we just know their effects from experiments, and we describe this effect with virtual photons, a mathematical model.

We do know that electrons and protons (quarks) have an intrinsic property called EM charge, and from experiments we do know that like charges repel and opposite charges attract. But it would not be a real picture trying to describe this with small classical billiard balls flying inbetween, because the underlying world is QM.


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