Skip to main content
Select Source:

Electricity and Magnetism

Electricity and magnetism

Electricity and magnetism are manifestations of a single underlying electromagnetic force. Electromagnetism is a branch of physical science that describes the interactions of electricity and magnetism, both as separate phenomena and as a singular electromagnetic force. Amagnetic field is created by a moving electric current and a magnetic field can induce movement of charges (electric current). The rules of electromagnetism also explain geomagnetic and electromagnetic phenomena by explaining how charged particles of atoms interact.

Before the advent of technology, electromagnetism was perhaps most strongly experienced in the form of lightning , and electromagnetic radiation in the form of light. Ancient man kindled fires that he thought were kept alive in trees struck by lightning. Magnetism has long been employed for navigation in the compass. In fact, it is known that Earth's magnetic poles have exchanged positions in the past.

Some of the rules of electrostatics, the study of electric charges at rest, were first noted by the ancient Romans, who observed the way a brushed comb would attract particles. It is now known that electric charges occur in two different forms, positive charges and negative charges. Like charges repel each other, and differing types attract.

The force that attract positive charges to negative charges weakens with distance, but is intrinsically very strongup to 40 times stronger than the pull of gravity at the surface of the earth. This fact can easily be demonstrated by a small magnet that can hold or suspend an object. The small magnet exerts a force at least equal to the pull of gravity from the entire Earth.

The fact that unlike charges attract means that most of this force is normally neutralized and not seen in full strength. The negative charge is generally carried by the atom's electrons, while the positive resides with the protons inside the atomic nucleus. Other less known particles can also carry charge. When the electrons of a material are not tightly bound to the atom's nucleus, they can move from atom to atom and the substance, called a conductor, can conduct electricity. Conversely, when the electron binding is strong, the material resists electron flow and is an insulator.

When electrons are weakly bound to the atomic nucleus, the result is a semiconductor, often used in the electronics industry. It was not initially known if the electric current carriers were positive or negative, and this initial ignorance gave rise to the convention that current flows from the positive terminal to the negative. In reality we now know that the electrons actually flow from the negative to the positive.

Electromagnetism is the theory of a unified expression of an underlying force, the electromagnetic force. This is seen in the movement of electric charge, that gives rise to magnetism (the electric current in a wire being found to deflect a compass needle), and it was Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (18311879), who published a unifying theory of electricity and magnetism in 1865. The theory arose from former specialized work by German mathematician Carl Fredrich Gauss (17771855), French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb (17361806), French scientist André Marie Ampère

(17751836), English physicist Michael Faraday (17911867), American scientist and statesman Benjamin Franklin (17061790), and German physicist and mathematician Georg Simon Ohm (17891854). However, one factor that did not contradict the experiments was added to the equations by Maxwell to ensure the conservation of charge. This was done on the theoretical grounds that charge should be a conserved quantity, and this addition led to the prediction of a wave phenomena with a certain anticipated velocity. Light, with the expected velocity, was found to be an example of this electro-magnetic radiation.

Light had formerly been thought of as consisting of particles (photons) by Newton, but the theory of light as particles was unable to explain the wave nature of light (diffraction and the like). In reality, light displays both wave and particle properties. The resolution to this duality lies in quantum theory , where light is neither particles nor wave, but both. It propagates as a wave without the need of a medium and interacts in the manner of a particle. This is the basic nature of quantum theory.

Classical electromagnetism, useful as it is, contains contradictions (acausality) that make it incomplete and drive one to consider its extension to the area of quantum physics , where electromagnetism, of all the fundamental forces of nature, it is perhaps the best understood.

There is much symmetry between electricity and magnetism. It is possible for electricity to give rise to magnetism, and symmetrically for magnetism to give rise to electricity (as in the exchanges within an electric transformer). It is an exchange of just this kind that constitutes electromagnetic waves. These waves, although they don't need a medium of propagation, are slowed when traveling through a transparent substance.

Electromagnetic waves differ from each other only in amplitude, frequency, and orientation (polarization). Laser beams are particular in being very coherent, that is, the radiation is of one frequency, and the waves coordinated in motion and direction. This permits a highly concentrated beam that is used not only for its cutting abilities, but also in electronic data storage, such as in CD-ROMs.

The differing frequency forms are given a variety of names, from radio waves at very low frequencies through light itself, to the high frequency x rays and gamma rays.

The unification of electricity and magnetism allows a deeper understanding of physical science, and much effort has been put into further unifying the four forces of nature (e.g., the electromagnetic, weak, strong, and gravitational forces. The weak force has now been unified with electromagnetism, called the electroweak force. There are research programs attempting to collect data that may lead to a unification of the strong force with the electroweak force in a grand unified theory, but the inclusion of gravity remains an open problem.

Maxwell's theory is in fact in contradiction with Newtonian mechanics, and in trying to find the resolution to this conflict, Einstein was lead to his theory of special relativity. Maxwell's equations withstood the conflict, but it was Newtonian mechanics that were corrected by relativistic mechanics. These corrections are most necessary at velocities, close to the speed of light.

Paradoxically, magnetism is a counter example to the frequent claims that relativistic effects are not noticeable for low velocities. The moving charges that compose an electric current in a wire might typically only be traveling at several feet per second (walking speed), and the resulting Lorentz contraction of special relativity is indeed minute. However, the electrostatic forces at balance in the wire are of such great magnitude, that this small contraction of the moving (negative) charges exposes a residue force of real world magnitude, namely the magnetic force. It is in exactly this way that the magnetic force derives from the electric. Special relativity is indeed hidden in Maxwell's equations, which were known before special relativity was understood or separately formulated by Einstein.

Electricity at high voltages can carry energy across extended distances with little loss. Magnetism derived from that electricity can then power vast motors. But electromagnetism can also be employed in a more delicate fashion as a means of communication, either with wires (as in the telephone), or without them (as in radio communication). It also drives motors and provides current for electronic and computing devices.

See also Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australialis; Earth, interior structure; Electromagnetic spectrum; Ferromagnetic; Quantum electrodynamics (QED); Quantum theory and mechanics

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Electricity and Magnetism." World of Earth Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Electricity and Magnetism." World of Earth Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electricity-and-magnetism

"Electricity and Magnetism." World of Earth Science. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electricity-and-magnetism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetism is the force involving the interaction of electricity and magnetism. It is the science of electrical charge, and its rules govern the way charged particles of atoms interact. Electromagnetism is one of the four fundamental forces of the universe (gravity and the "strong" and "weak" forces that hold an atomic nucleus together are the other three). Because its effects can be observed so easily, electromagnetism is the best understood of these four forces.

Some of the rules of electrostatics, or the study of electric charges at rest, were first noted by the ancient Romans, who observed the way a brushed comb would attract particles. Until the nineteenth century, however, electricity and magnetism were thought to be totally different and separate forces. In 1820, a direct connection between the two forces was confirmed for the first time when Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted (17771851) announced his discovery that an electric current, if passed through a wire placed near a compass needle, would make the needle move. This suggested that electricity somehow creates a magnetic force or field, since a compass needle moves by magnetism.

Shortly afterward, French physicist André Marie Ampère (17751836) conducted experiments in which he discovered that two parallel

wires each carrying a current attract each other if the currents flow in the same direction, but repel each other if they flow in opposite directions. He concluded that magnetism is the result of electricity in motion.

A decade after Oersted's experiments, English physicist Michael Faraday (17911867) observed that an electric current flowing in a wire created what he called "lines of force" to expand outward, inducing or causing an electric flow in a crossed wire. Since it was known from Oersted's work that an electric current always produces a magnetic field around itself, Faraday concluded from his experiments just the opposite: that a wire moving through a magnetic field will induce an electric current in the wire.

Finally, between 1864 and 1873, Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (18311879) devised a set of mathematical equations that unified electrical and magnetic phenomena into what became known as the electromagnetic theory. He and his contemporaries now understood that an electric current creates a magnetic field around it. If the motion of that current changes, then the magnetic field varies, which in turn produces an electric field.

Words to Know

Electromagnetic radiation: Radiation (a form of energy) that has properties of both an electric and magnetic wave and that travels through a vacuum with the speed of light.

Electromagnetic spectrum: The complete array of electromagnetic radiation, including radio waves (at the longest-wavelength end), microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X rays, and gamma rays (at the shortest-wavelength end).

Frequency: The rate at which vibrations take place (number of times per second the motion is repeated), given in cycles per second or in hertz (Hz). Also, the number of waves that pass a given point in a given period of time.

Maxwell also discovered that the oscillation or fluctuation of an electric current would produce a magnetic field that expanded outward at a constant speed. By applying the ratio of the units of magnetic phenomena to the units of electrical phenomena, he found it possible to calculate the speed of that expansion. The calculation came out to approximately 186,300 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second, nearly the speed of light. From this, Maxwell theorized that light itself was a form of electromagnetic radiation that traveled in waves. Since electric charges could be made to oscillate at many velocities (speeds), there should be a corresponding number of electromagnetic radiations. Therefore, visible light would be just a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum, or the complete array of electromagnetic radiation.

Indeed, modern scientists know that radio and television waves, microwaves, infrared rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, gamma rays, and X rays are all electromagnetic waves that travel through space independent of matter. And they all travel at roughly the same speedthe speed of lightdiffering from each other only in the frequency at which their electric and magnetic fields oscillate.

Many common events depend upon the broad span of the electromagnetic spectrum. The ability to communicate across long distances despite intervening obstacles, such as the walls of buildings, is possible using the radio and television frequencies. X rays can see into the human body without opening it. These things, which would once have been labeled magic, are now ordinary ways we use the electromagnetic spectrum.

The unification of electricity and magnetism has led to a deeper understanding of physical science, and much effort has been put into further unifying the four forces of nature. Scientists have demonstrated that the weak force and electromagnetism are part of the same fundamental force, which they call the electroweak force. There are proposals to include the strong force in a grand unified theory, which attempts to show how the four forces can be thought of as a manifestation of a single basic force that broke apart when the universe cooled after the big bang (theory that explains the beginning of the universe as a tremendous explosion from a single point that occurred 12 to 15 billion years ago). The inclusion of gravity in the unified theory, however, remains an open problem for scientists.

[See also Electricity; Electromagnetic field; Electromagnetic induction; Magnetism ]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Electromagnetism." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Electromagnetism." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism-1

"Electromagnetism." UXL Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

electromagnetism

electromagnetism Branch of physics dealing with the laws and phenomena that involve the interaction or interdependence of electricity and magnetism. The region in which the effect of an electromagnetic system can be detected is known as an electromagnetic field. When a magnetic field changes, an electric field can always be detected. When an electric field varies, a magnetic field can always be detected. Either type of energy field can be regarded as an electromagnetic field. A particle with an electric charge is in a magnetic field if it experiences a force only while moving; it is in an electric field if the force is experienced when stationary.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"electromagnetism." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"electromagnetism." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism

"electromagnetism." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

electromagnetism

e·lec·tro·mag·net·ism / iˌlektrōˈmagnəˌtizəm/ • n. the interaction of electric currents or fields and magnetic fields. ∎  the branch of physics concerned with this.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"electromagnetism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"electromagnetism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/electromagnetism

"electromagnetism." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/electromagnetism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetism

The fundamental role of special relativity in electromagnetism

Technological uses of electromagnetism

Electromagnetism comprises all physical phenomena in which electric and magnetic fields are involved. The rules of electromagnetism are responsible for the way charged particles of atoms interact, and are employed in all electrical and electronic machines.

Some of the rules of electrostatics, the study of electric charges at rest, were first noted by the ancient Romans, who observed the way a brushed comb would attract particles. It is now known that electric charges occur in two different types, called positive and negative. Like types repel each other, and differing types attract.

The force that attracts positive charges to negative charges weakens with distance, but is intrinsically very strong. The fact that unlike types attract means that most of this force is normally neutralized and not seen in full strength. The negative charge is generally carried by the atoms electrons, while the positive resides with the protons inside the atomic nucleus. There are other less well-known particles that can also carry charge. When the electrons of a material are not tightly bound to the atoms nucleus, they can move from atom to atom and the substance, called a conductor, can conduct electricity. On the contrary, when the electron binding is strong, the material is called an insulator.

When electrons are weakly bound to the atomic nucleus, the result is a semiconductor, often used in the electronics industry. It was not initially known if the electric current carriers were positive or negative, and this initial ignorance gave rise to the convention that current flows from the positive terminal to the negative. In reality we now know that the electrons actually run from the negative to the positive.

Electromagnetism is the theory of a unified expression of an underlying force, the so-called electromagnetic force. This is seen in the movement of electric charge, which gives rise to magnetism (the electric current in a wire being found to deflect a compass needle), and it was a Scotsman, James Clerk Maxwell, who published the theory unifying electricity and magnetism in 1865. The theory arose from former specialized work by Gauss, Coulomb, Ampe`re, Faraday, Franklin, and Ohm. However, one factor that did not contradict the experiments was added to the equations by Maxwell so as to ensure the conservation of charge. This was done on the theoretical grounds that charge should be a conserved quantity, and this addition led to the prediction of a wave phenomena with a certain anticipated velocity. Light, which has the expected velocity, was found to be an example of this electromagnetic radiation.

Light had formerly been thought of as consisting of particles (photons) by Newton, but the theory of light as particles was unable to explain the wave nature of light (diffraction and the like). In reality, light displays both wave and particle properties. The resolution to this duality lies in quantum theory, where light is neither particles nor wave, but both. It propagates as a wave without the need of a medium and interacts in the manner of a particle. This is the basic nature of quantum theory.

Classical electromagnetism, useful as it is, contains contradictions (acausality) that make it incomplete and drove scientists to consider its extension to the area of quantum physics.

There is much symmetry between electric and magnetic fields. A changing electric field gives rise to a magnetic field, and a changing magnetic field gives rise to an electric field. It is a back-and-forth exchange of this kind that allows the propagation of electromagnetic waves. These waves, although they do not need a medium of propagation, are slowed when traveling through a transparent substance. The induction of magnetic and electric fields by each other is also used in transformers, which allow alternating currents of one voltage to be transformed into alternating currents of another voltage, either lesser or greater.

Electromagnetic waves differ from each other only in amplitude, frequency and orientation (polarization). Laser beams are particular in being very coherent, that is, the radiation is of one frequency, and the waves coordinated in motion and direction. This permits a highly concentrated beam that is used not only for its cutting abilities, but also in electronic data storage, such as in CD-ROMs and DVD-ROMS.

The differing frequency forms are given a variety of names, from radio waves at very low frequencies through light itself, to the high frequency x and gamma rays.

Many miracles depend upon the broad span of the electromagnetic spectrum. The ability to communicate across long distances despite intervening obstacles, such as the walls of buildings, is possible using the radio and television frequencies. X rays can see into the human body without opening it. These things, which would once have been labeled magic, are now ordinary ways we use the electromagnetic spectrum.

The unification of electricity and magnetism has led to a deeper understanding of physical science, and much effort has been put into further unifying the four forces of nature. The remaining known forces are the so-called weak, strong, and gravitational forces. The weak force has now been unified with electromagnetism, called the electroweak force. There are proposals to include the strong force in a grand unified theory, but the inclusion of gravity remains an open problem.

The fundamental role of special relativity in electromagnetism

Maxwells theory is in fact in contradiction with Newtonian mechanics, and in trying to find the resolution to this conflict, Einstein was led to his theory of special relativity. Maxwells equations withstood the conflict, but it was Newtonian mechanics that were corrected by relativistic mechanics. These corrections are most necessary at velocities, close to the speed of light. The many strange predictions about space and time that follow from special relativity are found to be a part of the real world.

Paradoxically, magnetism is a counter example to the frequent claims that relativistic effects are not noticeable for low velocities. The moving charges that compose an electric current in a wire might typically only be traveling at several feet per second (walking speed), and the resulting Lorentz contraction of special relativity is indeed minute. However, the electrostatic forces at balance in the wire are of such great magnitude, that this small contraction of the moving (negative) charges exposes a residue force of real world magnitude, namely the magnetic force. It is in exactly this way that the magnetic force derives from the electric. Special relativity is indeed hidden in Maxwells equations, which were known before special relativity was understood or separately formulated by Einstein.

Technological uses of electromagnetism

Before the advent of technology, electromagnetism was perhaps most strongly experienced in the form of lightning, and electromagnetic radiation in the form of light. Ancient man kindled fires which he thought were kept alive in trees struck by lightning.

Much of the magic of nature has been put to work by man, but not always for his betterment or that of his surroundings. Electricity at high voltages can carry energy across extended distances with little loss. Magnetism derived from that electricity can then power vast motors. But electromagnetism can also be employed in a more delicate fashion as a means of communication, either with wires (as in the telephone), or without them (as in radio communication). It also drives our electronics devices (as in computers).

Magnetism has long been employed for navigation in the compass. This works because Earth is itself a huge magnet, thought to have arisen from the great heat driven convection currents of molten iron in its center. In fact, it is known that Earths magnetic poles have exchanged positions in the past.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Electromagnetism." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Electromagnetism." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism

"Electromagnetism." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetism

Electromagnetism is a branch of physical science that involves all the phenomena in which electricity and magnetism interact. This field is especially important to electronics because a magnetic field is created by an electric current . The rules of electromagnetism are responsible for the way charged particles of atoms interact.

Some of the rules of electrostatics, the study of electric charges at rest, were first noted by the ancient Romans, who observed the way a brushed comb would attract particles. It is now known that electric charges occur in two different types, called positive and negative . Like types repel each other, and differing types attract.

The force that attracts positive charges to negative charges weakens with distance , but is intrinsically very strong. The fact that unlike types attract means that most of this force is normally neutralized and not seen in full strength. The negative charge is generally carried by the atom's electrons, while the positive resides with the protons inside the atomic nucleus. There are other less well known particles that can also carry charge. When the electrons of a material are not tightly bound to the atom's nucleus, they can move from atom to atom and the substance, called a conductor, can conduct electricity. On the contrary, when the electron binding is strong, the material is called an insulator.

When electrons are weakly bound to the atomic nucleus, the result is a semiconductor, often used in the electronics industry. It was not initially known if the electric current carriers were positive or negative, and this initial ignorance gave rise to the convention that current flows from the positive terminal to the negative. In reality we now know that the electrons actually run from the negative to the positive.

Electromagnetism is the theory of a unified expression of an underlying force, the so-called electromagnetic force. This is seen in the movement of electric charge , which gives rise to magnetism (the electric current in a wire being found to deflect a compass needle), and it was a Scotsman, James Clerk Maxwell, who published the theory unifying electricity and magnetism in 1865. The theory arose from former specialized work by Gauss, Coulomb , Ampère, Faraday, Franklin, and Ohm. However, one factor that did not contradict the experiments was added to the equations by Maxwell so as to ensure the conservation of charge. This was done on the theoretical grounds that charge should be a conserved quantity, and this addition led to the prediction of a wave phenomena with a certain anticipated velocity . Light , which has the expected velocity, was found to be an example of this electromagnetic radiation .

Light had formerly been thought of as consisting of particles (photons) by Newton, but the theory of light as particles was unable to explain the wave nature of light (diffraction and the like). In reality, light displays both wave and particle properties. The resolution to this duality lies in quantum theory, where light is neither particles or wave, but both. It propagates as a wave without the need of a medium and interacts in the manner of a particle. This is the basic nature of quantum theory.

Classical electromagnetism, useful as it is, contains contradictions (acausality) that make it incomplete and drive one to consider its extension to the area of quantum physics , where electromagnetism, of all the fundamental forces of nature, it is perhaps the best understood.

There is much symmetry between electricity and magnetism. It is possible for electricity to give rise to magnetism, and symmetrically for magnetism to give rise to electricity (as in the exchanges within an electric transformer ). It is an exchange of just this kind that constitutes electromagnetic waves. These waves, although they do not need a medium of propagation, are slowed when traveling through a transparent substance.

Electromagnetic waves differ from each other only in amplitude, frequency and orientation (polarization). Laser beams are particular in being very coherent, that is, the radiation is of one frequency, and the waves coordinated in motion and direction. This permits a highly concentrated beam that is used not only for its cutting abilities, but also in electronic data storage, such as in CD-ROMs.

The differing frequency forms are given a variety of names, from radio waves at very low frequencies through light itself, to the high frequency x and gamma rays.

Many miracles depend upon the broad span of the electromagnetic spectrum . The ability to communicate across long distances despite intervening obstacles, such as the walls of buildings, is possible using the radio and television frequencies. X rays can see into the human body without opening it. These things, which would once have been labeled magic, are now ordinary ways we use the electromagnetic spectrum .

The unification of electricity and magnetism has led to a deeper understanding of physical science, and much effort has been put into further unifying the four forces of nature. The remaining known forces are the so called weak, strong, and gravitational forces. The weak force has now been unified with electromagnetism, called the electroweak force. There are proposals to include the strong force in a grand unified theory , but the inclusion of gravity remains an open problem.


The fundamental role of special relativity in electromagnetism

Maxwell's theory is in fact in contradiction with Newtonian mechanics, and in trying to find the resolution to this conflict, Einstein was lead to his theory of special relativity. Maxwell's equations withstood the conflict, but it was Newtonian mechanics that were corrected by relativistic mechanics. These corrections are most necessary at velocities, close to the speed of light. The many strange predictions about space and time that follow from special relativity are found to be a part of the real world.

Paradoxically, magnetism is a counter example to the frequent claims that relativistic effects are not noticeable for low velocities. The moving charges that compose an electric current in a wire might typically only be traveling at several feet per second (walking speed), and the resulting Lorentz contraction of special relativity is indeed minute. However, the electrostatic forces at balance in the wire are of such great magnitude, that this small contraction of the moving (negative) charges exposes a residue force of real world magnitude, namely the magnetic force. It is in exactly this way that the magnetic force derives from the electric. Special relativity is indeed hidden in Maxwell's equations, which were known before special relativity was understood or separately formulated by Einstein.

Technological uses of electromagnetism

Before the advent of technology, electromagnetism was perhaps most strongly experienced in the form of lightning , and electromagnetic radiation in the form of light. Ancient man kindled fires which he thought were kept alive in trees struck by lightning.

Much of the magic of nature has been put to work by man, but not always for his betterment or that of his surroundings. Electricity at high voltages can carry energy across extended distances with little loss. Magnetism derived from that electricity can then power vast motors. But electromagnetism can also be employed in a more delicate fashion as a means of communication, either with wires (as in the telephone ), or without them (as in radio communication). It also drives our electronics devices (as in computers).

Magnetism has long been employed for navigation in the compass. This works because Earth is itself a huge magnet, thought to have arisen from the great heat driven convection currents of molten iron in its center. In fact, it is known that Earth's magnetic poles have exchanged positions in the past.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Electromagnetism." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Electromagnetism." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 17, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism-0

"Electromagnetism." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. . Retrieved October 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/electromagnetism-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.