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Classical Electrodynamics in Terms of Direct Interparticle Action

Wheeler, John Archibald and Feynman, Richard Phillips (1949) Classical Electrodynamics in Terms of Direct Interparticle Action. Reviews of Modern Physics, 21 (3). pp. 425-433. ISSN 0034-6861. doi:10.1103/RevModPhys.21.425.

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Many of our present hopes to understand the behavior of matter and energy rely upon the notion of field. Consequently it may be appropriate to re-examine critically the origin and use of this century old concept. This idea developed in the study of classical electromagnetism at a time when it was considered appropriate to treat electric charge as a continuous substance. It is not obvious that general acceptance in the early 1800's of the principle of the atomicity of electric charge would have led to the field concept in its present form. Is it after all essential in classical field theory to require that a particle act upon itself? Of quantum theories of fields and their possibilities we hardly know enough to demand on quantum grounds that such a direct self-interaction should exist. Quantum theory defines those possibilities of measurement which are consistent with the principle of complementarity, but the measuring devices themselves after all necessarily make use of classical concepts to specify the quantity measured. For this reason it is appropriate to begin a re-analysis of the field concept by returning to classical electrodynamics. We therefore propose here to go back to the great basic problem of classical physics-the motion of a system of charged particles under the influence of electromagnetic forces-and to inquire what description of the interactions and motions is possible which is at the same time (1) well defined (2) economical in postulates and (3) in agreement with experience.

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Additional Information:© 1949 The American Physical Society.
Issue or Number:3
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20140805-153725517
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:48015
Deposited By: George Porter
Deposited On:06 Aug 2014 14:52
Last Modified:10 Nov 2021 17:52

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