the missing link in Electromagnetics

OK OK ... this post won't go down well with all ... it's dedicated and meant for the pure ... the absolutely pure theoritical physics lovers ... if you aren't one, you will find this post to be a deadly bore, and I forewarn you ... do NOT proceed ... I myself am having fears that many of you might even consider un-following my blog after reading this post ... but keeping my fingers crossed I embark ...

Ever wondered why gaps exist?


Chill ... by gaps i refer not to literal gaps, but rather, gaps in theories ... make it ... er ... shortcomings ... in established theoritical concepts. Now say ... ever wondered why such shortcomings exist? If you did, then there's some pleasant news for you ... many great minds thought along the same lines, and unearthed loads of mind boggling new theories that helped "fill" the gaps.

Remember Mendeleef? The Mendeleef of the Periodic Table fame? Remember how he left gaps in his early Periodic Table model and confidently predicted the existence of elements that would conveniently "fill" the gaps in the table?
The same was done by Paul Dirac to predict the existence of positrons after he delved into the quantum-mechanical equation describing the behaviour of an electron, and hypothesised the existence of its anti-particle, and presto! the positron was postulated.

The common link between these ... incidents ... is NOT the fact that the truth was eventually uncovered ... but that they were uncovered following ... purely theoritical considerations. We call such considerations "thought experiments".

a detour:
take this detour if you really want to, else continue from below :
Einstein's thought experiment:
One of the finest examples of a thought experiment was that of Albert Einstein which allowed him to establish his special theory of relativity later on. I read this in Simon Singh's brilliant book "The Big Bang" and am now trying to put it down in my own words. Galileo had postulated that any entity in an inertial frame (meaning a non accelerated frame) of reference would never be able to sense his motion ... in any way. So Einstein during one of his fits of wrambling :D wondered what would happen if one actually held a mirror in his hand and travelled at the velocity of light. He realised that according to common sense he would NOT see his reflection because the light rays would never actually leave his face if he was travelling at the speed of light itself ... got it? But that contradicted Galileo's postulate because then, one would be very much aware that he/she was indeed moving ... all the while sitting in an inertial frame. There was every possibility that Galileo's concept was WRONG, but Einstein had other explanations ... something that eventually materialsed into "the Special Theory of Relativity" ... coool ! what say? or perhaps a digusting waste of time ... :)

So coming back to our topic ... there's is a certain beauty in all things that are natural, and so "gaps" in theories disgraces them, and stand out as blotches or dark marks. (There is in fact a theory that states "a simpler explanation is more likely than a complex one" ... called the Occam's razor theory) ... so the more "gaps" a theory has the more complexities it must bear to explain the gaps ... hence it loses credibility. It takes an intuitive mind to actually figure out how to fit the gaps in the existing theory by predicting the things that will fill in the gaps.

Electromagnetics is characterised by four unique variable aspects.
First, there is electric charge, which flows to produce electric current.
Electric current now creates magnetic fields.
Changing magnetic fields in a region generates voltage.

So we see how these four things are inter linked through their basic definitions.

Now, electric current is linked to voltage, not through a definition, but rather, by means of a device called a resistor. A resistor connects current with voltage by allowing only such an amount of current to flow though it when connected across a voltage so that the voltage:current ratio remains contant. Get it?

Similarly, a capacitor links charge and voltage, and an inductor links current and magnetic field. I hope you know how ... otherwise you wouldn't have read this far.
So we now have at hand ... FIVE links between the four variables.
However elementary mathematics states that four different things can be interlinked in 4c2 ways which amounts to six. Hence if theory is to be devoid of unruly gaps, then the theory must evolve to explain the one missing link OR some intuitive mind must predict the existence of somethng to fill in the "gap".

Going green? Drink some water and freshen up ... because this part gets quite hairy ... (if it hasn't already :) )

Leon Chua was the person who first conducted a thought experiment to fill this gap in electromagnetics and how! He realised that the missing link was that between "charge" and "magnetic fields" so there must ... theoritically ... exist something that linked the two. Chua did a lot of mathematics before actually ... shaping ... this elusive thing ... and postulated its manners and way of acting.

Chua realised that this device would need to link "charges" and "magnetic fields" it must generate voltage from current .... only then would "charges" and "magnetic fields" be directly linked. Something which one has to get used to indeed!

Therefore, from purely theoritical considerations ... the "mem-ristor" was born in 1971.

And promptly disposed off, because it seemed pretty certain that such a thing could never exist.

Now however, we have enough reason to praise Chua's foresight because the memrisor has indeed become a reality.

What is it?

He he ... I'm yet to understand it perfectly, but as of now it appears to me to be a device that "remembers" the amount of charge that flowed through it, and hence calculates the "change" in current and the change in magnetic field giving rise to a certain voltage ... er ... that's all that I got ...
*grinning sheepishly*

But more than that what I wanted to actually stress upon is the way of thinking that led to this discovery ... how "thought experiments" actually work. Isn't the theory amazing?

PS: info gathered from the New Scientist website ... and assembled by myself


Harsh said…
Bhoutik Vigyaan me meri jyaada dilchaspi nahi hai dost :-P
Vipul Grover said…
aftr ur forewarning, i dcidd 2 skip this post 4 time being as it seems pretty long too. bt i'll surely b back sum othr day 2 read it as it seems 2 b an intrsting mix of philosophy nd physics :)
bt if it doens't trn out 2 b, thn u'll b blacklisted on my blogroll ;)
Anjan said…
Actually if u see "Electro-magnetism" and "Gravitation" just contradict one another!! Thus leaving a "Gap"... though, both make sense in their own ways and explanations... As far as I consider these "Gaps" to be based on some theoretical postulates, which says or defines that there must be a filler to it some way or the other... Uncovering or u might say filling up the gap is the homework to do!! You can look out more for "black holes" and stuff... and oh! yes ofcourse the latest and happening theory that's buzzing now a days...called the "String Theory"!! :D
@Vipul: good decision

@Anjan: how do em EM and gravitation contradict each other? i am curious ..
Anonymous said…
Whoa! Ive never heard of memristors before, this stuff sounds awesome. Thanks a million for filling the ....gaps :) in my knowledge.

You had a pretty neat way of summarizing electricity as well - the explanation of four quantities and how they are related to each other. And finding that there seems to be no link between charge and magnetic fields seems almost like child's play...any high school grad could have done it...i m not talkin abt the more advanced maths, just the initial thing that there is a our understanding.

Anyway, nice article!! oh and don't the end, the geeks and the nerds are the cool guys. :D
@graff: my pleasure ... but do check my new sidebar thingy ... its cooooler ...
Anonymous said…
yeah checked it out....i asked whether you really possessed suddenly started testing MY intelligence. Guess it wasn't so conscious after all. ....:-/
Anjan said…
oops!! that wasn't EM ... that should be Nuclear Physics and Laws of Gravitation... Nevertheless, EM and Nuclear Phy can be co-related.. its simple when i say Laws of Gravity its universal law of gravity ... but it doesn't seem to work well at nuclear levels such as protons, electrons etc... but still there are a whole set of questions that are out my scope and understanding too...have a look!
@Anjan: hey thnx ... and yeah that i read in Simon Singh's Big Bang ... Einstein's model starts to be applicable in the atomic level and is not really significant in the planetary systems ... but HOLDS universally ... Newtons does not ...
Anonymous said…
Ok this one's gonna be long, so kindly bear with me.

1. Gaps. Wouldnt it be great if all of us could acknowledge, accept and accommodate gaps in our own thinking, just like those great minds? The world would be a few times better.

2. Thx for pointing me to the New Scientist. Been out of touch with science for a long while now and was looking for good material to catch up with

3. Congrats on picking BITS, once again! Wish you a wonderful 4 yrs ahead :)

4. Finally a good WP theme! Right back at ya ;)

5. Thx for interesting stuff on the memristor. Will remember your blogpost on the day it is introduced to the real world :)
Anonymous said…
I won't say you're a geek but I get these feelings too sometimes. Wait, does that make me a geek?

Science makes you wonder. It's not only about gaps in theories but also about assumptions and formulas.

I mean seriously, what's that about? We assume a lot, don't we? :|

Good post, BTW :)
he he thnx :)
my other posts are a lot less geekier
pawan said…
This is one of the different posts I rarely see on the blogosphere. And it happens to be a post I immensely enjoyed reading!

And man, I wouldn't be surprised if you end up getting the nobel someday!
@pawan: don't insult the nobel buddy!!!
Anonymous said…
hey awesome post :) one post which got me sooo interested that I made some time inbetween my kernel crashes to read this :D Hmm.. being a science freak, I wonder why I never came across "mem-ristor".. should read up on that one.. expecting more geeky posts from you in future :D
Rambler said…
Huh? I was reminded of my Electronics lectures in college..I couldn't understand anything what the lecturer..And this post too felt like that :-)
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