The Law of Electrodynamics


IBM United Kingdom Winchester, England



The indeterminate elements can be deduced from

state of the empirical simple Newtonian interactions

law of electrodynamic of the law fully dynamics.

action to

between with

two current experiment

is reviewed.

It is shown that a form between


This law points

chargein electric

to be expected
mass ratio.


electric particles

of unequal anomalies

This result may account for certain hitherto unexplained phenomena.



A summary of the early development of the law of electrodynamic action between current elements is given by Tricker (1). He presents the basic paper of Ampere on this subject, and the criticisms sustained by Ampere’s law and alternative formulations by Biot and Savart and by Grassmann. Also mentioned is the general empirical formulation by Whittaker (2) in which he proposes a simplified new law based upon new assumptions. The common problem is that none of these laws is fully consistent with Newton’s Third Law when applied to interactions between individual elements of current. Yet, all the formulations appear to give the correct answers when used in integrated form to apply to interactions involving a closed circuit. Tricker then reaches the seemingly inevitable conclusion that an isolated element of steady current is a contradiction in terms, and thus leaves open the problem of how two electrons in motion really react owing to their electrodynamic interaction. Here, it is proposed to apply directly Newtonian principles to the problem of two interacting particles. From very simple considerations a formulation of the law of interaction is deduced which is fully consistent with the empirically derived general formula of electrodynamics but, oddly enough, is different from the laws deduced, by assumption, by Ampere, Biot and Savart, Grassmann, and Whittaker.
Empirical Analysis

Four basic empirical facts were relied upon by Ampere in deriving his law : (a) The effect of a current is reversed when the direction of the current is reversed. (b) The effect of a current flowing in a circuit twisted into small sinuosities is the same as if the circuit were smoothed out.


Ic is arbitrary and depends upon the units chosen. Prom the analysis by Whittaker (2). Whittaker (2) Here. The line from d7E to &’ is the vector distance F. the general formulation consistent with obs&vations (a) to (d) is found to be: F = /&’ 3(&F)(Z’. 3.Z7I. In its simplest form. Ampere combined with the above the assumption that the force between two current elements acts along the line joining them. or attract when carrying current in the same direction. (d) The force between two elements of circuits is unaffected when all linear dimensions are increased proportionately. . This involves equating A and -B.F)Z~ r3 r3 I. Their experiment demonstrated that separated charges in a capacitor resulted in no tendency for the capacitor to turn when in linear motion transverse to its suspension.@ _ B(&z’)Z+3B(&F)(i&)F\ constants.Brief Communications (c) The force exerted by a closed circuit on an element of another circuit is at right angles to the latter. (3) Inspection shows that this formulation satisfies observation (e).B(&‘. This applies to the general formulation when A = B. the current-strengths remaining unaltered. 3(z. A and B denote arbitrary then assumed linear force balance as represented by symmetry in & and &‘. To satisfy observation (f) terms other than those in I must cancel when & is equal to . 180 Journal of The Franklin Institute . the law becomes P= ~{(~.i)F r5 ( 2(Z. However. Put another way: (f) There is no interaction torque out of balance between anti-parallel current elements. This balance of torque action is not assured by the simple formulation of Whittaker in Eq.+4&. F denotes the force acting upon an element z’ of a circuit of current strength i’ and due to a current i in an element z.r)~‘+(~‘. although its polarity may be determined by using the law to verify the observation : (e) Two extended parallel circuit elements in close proximity mutually repel one another when carrying current in opposite directions. Whittaker made no mention of the all-important experimental discovery of Trouton and Noble (3).F) ( r5 - 2(&X’) p3 1 r * (1) Here.~‘)r}.r)(&‘. and thus obtained his law: p = Eii. disregarding Ampere’s assumption.~)~-(d7. with k and A both equal to unity.&‘..

in the general case. This must -m(%/dt) arise from a force -m(&‘/dt) acting on m’ in the direction V’. m’b = ma. produce a turning moment in the system. tend to change. i.Brief Communications Dynamic Analysis Consider now two particles of mass m and m’. of m’. 2. The prime direct electrodynamic force induces acceleration in a particle and therefore the inertial reaction. The centre of inertia of this two-particle system is taken to be distant a and b respectively from m and m’. February 1969 181 . although we now have three force components.e. Since there is no evidence that any system can begin to turn merely by its own internal interactions. two have arisen by action and reaction and one is really fictitious. the forces in the system must prevent an out-of-balance couple from asserting itself.iii’ b =-mdt a from Eq. We then remove the kinetic energy term and equate the remainder to zero. Therefore. They are separated by the distance vector 7. dt dt b a37 at The total force on m’ now becomes . where --F’ is the force we now assume to act directly on m’ as a result of its electrodynamic interaction with m. Then.d. These two forces on m and m’ will. 287. Let V. decreasing by I%‘. decreasing by %. the velocity (4) of m.’ dt in V’ direction. on m we add the force : -m’-. tend to change. In summary. Consider the rate of energy change at m’. the velocity from a force Let V’. No. -m -m’c -i?f dt in V direction. the inertial reaction force component which could correspond to a turning action has been introduced in the inertial formulation but since it must be zero it has been offset by a balancing term. in F direction. This must arise acting on m in the direction V. For generality. This force is a fully balanced interaction force. On m’ we add the force: _m-%a Z = -_m’__. 4. Vol.

However. For the particle of mass m’. 6 and 7 may be used to derive the general force expression p= ~-(q.)v~(F. this satisfies observation (f).. This result fully supports the belief that the isolated current element as a steady current element is contradictory. i%’ where e denotes the electron charge in electromagnetic becomes. 9 with Eq. F.Z’) r2 and. Of interest then is the fact that this force is exactly that deduced theoretically by evaluating the interaction component of the integrated magnetic field energy clue to the two current elements and assuming that it tends to increase. we have deduced that this law is only valid for interactions between charge elements of equal mass. Eqs. 2 shows it to be of the general form developed empirically by Whittaker. The comparison is satisfied if A is . from observation (e).. and Grassmann. Eq. d. it has been shown that a unique law of electrodynamics can be formulated as The odd thing about this is that the law thus deduced differs from that of AmpBre.‘)?).21)21’ r -. (9) A comparison of Eq.v’) (7) We can now evaluate the resultant force acting on each particle. Whittaker.’ mdt= 0 -c- F’ (F.. the masses m and m’ become equal and since the effective current elements e5. (w. We then develop the identity. eZ’ may be written iz.1 and B is .1. (6) Similarly for m. with & = &’ realize that k is + 1.v )r units. Further. = kii’(& . as expected from the basis of the analysis. Further. 8 If we now assume the particles to be electrons. Biot and Savart.i. The inertial effects of the charge carriers are important to the understanding of the full law of electrodynamics.Brief Communications Thus.s)o~-(. (w. If the masses of charge carriers in different parts of the same circuit are different the middle term in the above formulation has a coefficient equal to the mass ratio. 182 Journal of The Franklin Institute .

where i is the current in absolute units. some manifestation of the predicted anomalous forces should appear in plasma work. any element of current in a continuous filament is subjected to balancing forces from the filament current on either side. bearing in mind that in a discharge at least some of the current at the electrodes suddenly is transported by ions and not electrons. for example. This quadrature current phenomenon has defied explanation. There is no force action along the filament. 1636. Phys. p. 165-181. Vol. 1903. “Aether and Electricity”. London.. 10 assumes importance. Vol. Similarly. 1. (3) F. R.Brief Communications Since this middle term represents a force component along the direction of current flow. A. the m’lm factor to be used with the middle term of Eq. This force is the product of the constituent ion current component squared and the ratio of the ion mass to the electron mass. Forces of the order of lOOi as found by Kobel are therefore readily explained. “Early Electrodynamics”. Nelson. Whittaker. (4) E. Sot. Pergamon Press. we may predict that in a discharge circuit where electrons carry current in a cathode but positive ions contribute to the current to the cathode there will be an electrodynamic force manifested along the discharge. This also applies to the classical formulations of the electrodynamic law. Mere reaction momentum considerations lead to a relatively small cathode reaction force which is linearly dependent upon current. R. On one side of this current junction at the cathode electrons act upon ions in the discharge and on the other side ions act on ions.087. This is of the order of 100i2. Vol. (2) Sir E. pp. Tricker. Phil. Noble. New York. Many authors have found anomalous cathode reaction forces in discharge studies. Rev. References (1) R. Kobel. Kobel (4) found an anomalous cathode reaction force of 250 dyn at 16 A and 1400 dyn at 35 A. “The Mechanical Forces Acting on a Charged Condenser Moving Through Space”. It may be concluded that the resolution of this long-standing problem of the true nature of this basic electrodynamic law is not a mere academic topic. 202A. T. 36. However.No. Some deeper understanding of the law will have practical consequences in discharge and plasma control. London. Trouton and H. Oxford. Trans. It works out that there is an out-of-balance force productive of a cathode reaction by impact from the ions. Even using Eq.February 1969 183 . For example. 1965. 2. 1951. R. 1930.