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.


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

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

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

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

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