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Faraday walks onto stage as an old man with a cane, addresses audience with a freil English voice:

``My name is Michael Faraday. I don't care what anyone says about these newfangled theories about the nature of matter, it seems to me that it all started with some experiments I did back in 1831. I was always an experimentalist by nature. Spent all day in my laboratory in London -- even slept there sometimes. I did a great deal of work on magnets in those days. I found out that if I moved a conductor across the field of a powerful magnet . . .

[illustrates on the board]

`` . . . then an electric current was produced in the conductor! Nobody had ever witnessed this before.

``I tried to develop some ideas to explain this process. It seemed to me that the empty space between the poles of the magnet must contain some type of lines of force. I was inclined to compare the diffusion of magnetic forces from the poles to waves like the vibrations upon the surface of water.

``Not only that, but the vibrations in the magnet might have induced similar vibrations in the matter of the conductor.

``Since I was (and still am) a believer in the uniformity of the forces of nature, I thought that these waves might be commonplace, not only in the case of electromagnetism, but a general property of all matter.

``I am no mathematician - I was originally trained as a bookbinder's apprentice - but I was convinced that the vibrations whose existence I had inferred could be best described in a mathematical manner. Some Europeans had developed certain formulas on the subject, but they did not impress me. However, I knew a bright young mathematician, a Scot by name of James Clerk Maxwell, whom I consulted on this problem, and he gladly agreed to put his mind to it.''

Maxwell is writing MAXWELL'S EQUATIONS on the board as Faraday speaks:

\begin{eqnarray*}\hbox{\boldmath$\vec{\nabla} \cdot \vec{D}$\unboldmath } &=& \r . . . 
 . . . } \over \partial t} &=&
\hbox{\boldmath$\vec{J}$\unboldmath }

Faraday: [turning to look at Maxwell's equations] ``Hmmm . . . . I am sorry to say that your formulas look like hieroglyphics to me. Is there no way that these same conclusions can be expressed in common language as fully and clearly? It would be a great boon to such as I, so that I might work upon them by experiment. However, I must grudgingly admit that these formulas seem to be the beginnings of a theory that can account for many of the general properties of matter.''

Maxwell [reading a letter] ``I was aware that there was supposed to be a difference between Faraday's way of conceiving phenomena and that of the mathematicians, so that neither he nor they were satisfied with each other's language. I had also the conviction that this discrepancy did not arise from either party being wrong.''

[Looks up.]

`` . . . we have strong reason to conclude that light itself - including radiant heat, and other radiations if any - is an electromagnetic disturbance in the form of WAVES propagated through the electromagnetic field according to electromagnetic laws.''

[Draws a wave on the blackboard.]

next up previous
Next: Hot Atoms Up: The Dreams Stuff is Made Of Previous: A Few Loose Ends
Jess H. Brewer