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Why do charges exist, how did they come into existence? (if any theories exist, then please explain them in somewhat detail)

What would happen if charges never existed?

Please explain the answers at the scope of an 11th standard student

Thank you

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    $\begingroup$ Voting to reopen. This question is not deviating from mainstream physics, it is simply asking about the consequences if one of the fundamental forces had never existed. If you prefer, you can imagine reducing the strength of the electromagnetic force to zero. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf61
    Mar 29 at 16:58
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    $\begingroup$ @gandalf61 basically agree but the focus on why do charges exist in the question and the title needs to changed by the poster and make the focus more on what would happen in the limit that electromagnetic forces go to zero. $\endgroup$
    – KDP
    Mar 30 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Note to readers: The edit by @KDP has significantly changed the question, making earlier answers appear invalid. I don't know if the edit will stick, but please be aware of it when reading and voting on the answers below. $\endgroup$ Mar 30 at 22:47
  • $\begingroup$ I've rolled back the edit, which did indeed change the question entirely. $\endgroup$
    – WillO
    Mar 30 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I didn't notice it already had answers. I did not think my edit would take effect immediately and would reopen the question and was meant as a suggestion. Will do better next time :-) $\endgroup$
    – KDP
    Mar 30 at 23:12

3 Answers 3

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I am going to assume that when you say "charges" you mean "electric charges" (there are some other types of charge in physics, but you probably haven't come across them).

Why do charges exist ?

We don't know. Physics (and science in general) does not generally attempt to answer "why" questions. It just describes the world as it is.

How did they come into existence ?

Electric charge is a fundamental property of matter (and of anti-matter). As far as we know, it has always existed in our universe - certainly since the very briefest of moments after the Big Bang.

We believe (from experimental evidence) that the net amount of electric charge (positive charges minus negative charges) in an isolated system never changes - this is the principle of charge conservation. There are fundamental particle reactions (such as matter/antimatter annihilation or neutron decay) that can change the individual totals of positive and negative charges - but they do so by equal amounts, so that the net charge is unchanged.

What would happen if charges never existed ?

Without electric charge there would be nothing to hold electrons in orbit around the nuclei of atoms. None of the elements could exist, and the universe would be filled with a very dilute "gas" of neutral leptons and quarks. Some of the neutral quarks may have linked up into combinations similar to protons and neutrons held together by the strong force - but the universe would be so fundamentally different that it is not clear that even this would be possible.

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    $\begingroup$ Without any charge it seems hard to get neutrons, much less protons, since quarks will be different. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Mar 29 at 16:45
  • $\begingroup$ @JonCuster Yes, indeed. I have amended my answer. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf61
    Mar 29 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Charges can come into or out of existence at any time as particle/antiparticle pairs. $\endgroup$
    – mmesser314
    Mar 30 at 0:56
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    $\begingroup$ @mmesser314 Yes, and a neutron can decay into a proton and an electron etc. etc. - but this just changes the total amount of positive and negative charge. Charge as a property of matter, which is clearly what the questioner has in mind, has always existed (as far as we know). However, I will add your point as a caveat in my answer. $\endgroup$
    – gandalf61
    Mar 30 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ Also electric charge is invariant, I.e. it's value are same in all reference frames. $\endgroup$
    – Sancol.
    Mar 30 at 10:20
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Aristotle said physics is the study of change and the main way that things change is through motion.

Charges, via Noether's thm, are what is required for change to occur.

For example, mass is the Noether charge for spacetime translation. So movement in time and space.

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When an electron with a negative charge and its antiparticle, the positron, with a positive charge annihilate, one possible outcome is the production of two photons. This means that it is allowable, under appropriate conditions, for two photons to interact and produce an electron and a positron. A photon is a quantum of the electromagnetic field. A photon has an electric field and a magnetic field but no charge. So two, basically identical particles, with no charge, can interact to produce two charged particles.

Proposed theories: I remember many years ago reading a paper that proposed the idea that you could get a photon to produce an effective electric charge if it were to follow a tightly restricted path. I believe that this path was like a figure 8 when the two circles of the 8 are bent over to lie one atop the other- a Hubius helix. (Unfortunately I cannot find this paper) Something similar is proposed in these two papers. Qiu-Hong Hu and Vivian Robinson
These are just proposed theories, they are not accepted physics.

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  • $\begingroup$ "you could get a photon to produce an effective electric charge if it were to follow a tightly restricted path." - yes, I know that this is just an idea but isn't this fundamentally flawed? This implies that principle of conservation of charge has failed here since an effective charge is being produced. $\endgroup$ Apr 1 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ @AdwitKumar You are correct. There are other conserved quantities to consider: momentum, angular momentum, spin, lepton number. So I suppose that any mechanism that allowed such a structure to form would require the interaction of two photons, one producing an electron and its partner producing a positron. This allowing all these quantities to balance. This is only my supposition - I am not defending this theory. $\endgroup$
    – Rich
    Apr 1 at 17:52

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