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Electromagnetism as Quantum Physics

Sebens, Charles T. (2019) Electromagnetism as Quantum Physics. Foundations of Physics, 49 (4). pp. 365-389. ISSN 0015-9018. doi:10.1007/s10701-019-00253-3.

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One can interpret the Dirac equation either as giving the dynamics for a classical field or a quantum wave function. Here I examine whether Maxwell’s equations, which are standardly interpreted as giving the dynamics for the classical electromagnetic field, can alternatively be interpreted as giving the dynamics for the photon’s quantum wave function. I explain why this quantum interpretation would only be viable if the electromagnetic field were sufficiently weak, then motivate a particular approach to introducing a wave function for the photon (following Good in Phys Rev 105(6):1914–1919, 1957). This wave function ultimately turns out to be unsatisfactory because the probabilities derived from it do not always transform properly under Lorentz transformations. The fact that such a quantum interpretation of Maxwell’s equations is unsatisfactory suggests that the electromagnetic field is more fundamental than the photon.

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Additional Information:© 2019 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. Received 03 October 2018; Accepted 05 March 2019; First Online 19 March 2019. Thank you to Steve Carlip, Sheldon Goldstein, Chris Hitchcock, Michael Kiessling, Matthias Lienert, Ward Struyve, A. Shadi Tahvildar-Zadeh, Roderich Tumulka, David Wallace, and an anonymous referee for helpful feedback and discussion. This project was supported in part by funding from the President's Research Fellowships in the Humanities, University of California (for research conducted while at the University of California, San Diego).
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University of California, San DiegoUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Photon wave function; Electromagnetism; Weber vector; Bohmian mechanics; Field Particle; Quantum field theory
Issue or Number:4
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20190515-135120517
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Official Citation:Sebens, C.T. Found Phys (2019) 49: 365.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:95516
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:15 May 2019 22:42
Last Modified:16 Nov 2021 17:13

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