MadSci Network: Physics

Re: Question on Electromagnetic Attraction and Repulsion

Date: Thu Jun 10 19:43:41 2004
Posted By: Layne Johnson, Undergraduate
Area of science: Physics
ID: 1086727316.Ph

Hello Tim.

As odd as it seems, a photon being emitted by one electron and absorbed by 
another does not repel the electrons away from one another.

In classical physics, if I were to toss you a baseball, there would be a 
repelling effect. My body would experience an equal but opposite reaction 
to the baseball when I threw it. Your body would experience it when you 
caught it.

But the photon's effect on an electron isn't the same as a baseball's 
effect on you or I. The photon doesn't add to the mass of the electron 
that absorbs it, nor does it diminish the mass of the electron that emits 
it. It only changes the electron's state of activity.

This is kind of a korny analogy, but imagine that instead of tossing a 
baseball toward you, I e-mail you a joke instead. The joke is a funny one, 
and it changes your state of excitement. You were just sitting down and 
reading, but now you're rolling on the floor and laughing until your sides 
hurt. You've absorbed the joke I emitted, and your level of activity 
raised because of it, but it didn't push you away from me.

Layne Johnson.

p.s. So there's this cowboy, and he walks into a saloon....

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