NEMIG lecture by John Arthur on 150 Years of Maxwell’s Equations

There will shortly be a video available on htt:// of this lecture.

John Arthur’s book on Understanding Algebraic Geometry for Electromagnetic Theory:

14:00 – 15:00, 22nd September 2014, Room: M4.13 (CPD Room) Merz Court

Dr John Arthur FRSE FREng FinstP FIET SMIEE Trustee, James Clerk Maxwell Foundation

The talk will start with who James Clerk Maxwell was and the origins of his electromagnetic equations. It will show some of the difficulties he had with the mathematics of the day and how, from there, the original cumbersome equations were gradually shaped into the set most commonly seen today. But even now there is confusion and misunderstanding about some of the key concepts, such as questions concerning the roles and relative usefulness of D and E and, even more so, B and H. We therefore set about clarifying the essential fields.  As to the usefulness, or otherwise, of magnetic poles as a concept, we investigate an alternative view of magnetism which leads to the idea of replacing two separate electromagnetic fields with just one composite field. This requires a change to the treatment of Maxwell’s equations which has some surprising benefits, as will be demonstrated, ending up with how they reduce to just one very simple equation.

Speaker’s biography: Although born and bred in Edinburgh, John Arthur took a degree in physics and mathematics at the University of Toronto before returning to complete a PhD in physics from the University of Edinburgh where he then worked for several years in post-doctoral research. Thereafter he moved from academia to industry, where he spent the greater part of his career specialising in high technology developments for communications and radar in areas covering signal processing, surface acoustic waves, microwaves and electronics. He has published a number of articles, and more recently a recent book, on electromagnetic theory. Since 2012 he has been a trustee of the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation based at 14 India Street, Edinburgh, the birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell.

Eliminating “competitors” by not giving them enough energy

One of possible strategies for differentiating some types of electronics from other types is to stage a “power-modulated competition” between them, by gradually tuning power source in different ways, for example in terms of power levels, either through voltage level or/and current level, also in dynamic sense as well. The circuits that require stable and sufficiently high level of voltage will be gradually eliminated from the race … Only those who can survive through the power dynamic range context will pass through the natural selection!

Building such a test bed is an interesting challenge by itself!

Heaviside memorial

The unveiling ceremony was held on Saturday 30th August 2014 at 3pm in Paignton Cemetery. It was attended by the Mayor of Torbay, the MP for Torbay, an ex-curator of the Science Museum (representing the Institution of Engineering and Technology), the Chairman of the Torbay Civic Society, delegates from Newcastle University, representatives from Allwood and Sons the monument restorers and members of the general public. Most importantly, the ceremony was honored by the attendance of a relative of Oliver Heaviside , Alan Heather (Oliver Heaviside’s first cousin three times removed) and his wife.

At this ceremony I emphasized the fact that Heaviside who was an electrical engineer at the start of his professional life, with his work that originated in solving practical engineering problems (e.g. telegraphy and telephony), made an unprecedented impact on fundamental disciplines – mathematics and physics. This fact should be seen by many students and researchers, as well as engineers, as an inspiration to the creative process in science. Unlike the accepted “causal path”, which people often associate with applying basic science to engineering problems, the truly innovative causal path is actually reverse. On this path, one would start with the engineering problem, find a practically working solution – very often engineering intuition helps here – and then “invent” the mathematics and physics to describe the solution as a phenomenon. Heaviside’s whole life has been the following of this path, which pretty well epitomizes his famous saying “We reverse this; the current in the wire is set up by the energy transmitted through the medium around it.” (”Electrical Papers” Vol. 1, page 438, by Oliver Heaviside.). Here the engineering method acts as an driving energy and the product of this method, the scientific method, is like a current in the wire.

I am sure that Heaviside is a brilliant example that we should tell our students about when attracting them into (electrical and electronic) engineering – where they can make impact on fundamental sciences without actually being professional mathematicians or physicists. They need to be creative and imaginative!