Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 6: Electromagnetism

As we progress through this series, the theories and concepts become increasingly difficult and abstract. Though they may seem daunting, the simple solution to this is to read the passage a few times. When I don’t understand something, I like to try to read the context surrounding it, which usually helps me catch a fact that I missed, and helps everything click together. If all else fails, Google is your friend. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 6: Electromagnetism.


So far, we have only covered one of the fundamental forces: gravitation. This time, we will be talking about another force: Electromagnetism. Before we begin, I would encourage you to read my series on gauge bosons, where we talked a bit more in depth about the photon. To put it simply, for the sake of staying concise, the photon is a particle that is the carrier of the electromagnetic force. If you have ever heard of the electromagnetic spectrum, then you should know a thing or two about photons. If not, I would suggest giving it a quick google. Basically, the electromagnetic force is the cause of the two poles of a magnet, and the two charges of particles: negative and positive. If not for the electromagnetic force, particles like the electron and proton would never be attracted to each other.


The electromagnetic force is the 2nd strongest of the four fundamental forces. It is extremely powerful both on a quantum and macro scale. Considering the fact that it plays such a fundamental part in particle interaction, we are very lucky that it is as strong as it is. If it was even the tiniest bit weaker, atoms would not be able to stay together, and elements would not be able to bond with one another. This would result in life as we know ceasing to exist. Everything would just sort of float apart.


This next point is extremely fun to me, and is one of my absolute favorite things to talk about: The Ultraviolet Catastrophe. Even though it may sound like a really cool action movie title, it is much more than that. It is the culmination of some of the greatest minds in science, and their epic quest to find out why theories about light hadn’t ever worked out mathematically. The theory began with the theorized idea of a “black body.” A black body is a theoretical physical body that can absorb or emit any kind of electromagnetic radiation. The issue with that was that at higher frequencies of light, the black body would emit infinite amounts of radiation, which was simply not possible. This problem was fixed soon after Albert Einstein published his paper titled “The Photoelectric Effect.” Prior to this paper, it was believed that light was solely a wave, and functioned like one, which resulted in the aforementioned issue. To solve this issue, Einstein stated that light was not only a wave, but at the same time a particle. He theorized that in some ways it acted as a wave, and in others it acted as a particle. This later led to the idea of photons, which revolutionized the way that early quantum theory worked.


For future reference, there is one theory that I will be talking about after we get acquainted with out next force, which is the weak nuclear force. This theory is known as “electroweak theory,” and is one of the most important, and most complicated theory known to mankind. I will really try to put it simply, but I barely understand it myself. I hope to put out the next post today or tomorrow, but research on electroweak might make that a bit tough. We shall see how it goes.


Thanks so much to my loyal readers, and I hope all of you enjoyed Part 5!