They’ve Not Defied 19th Century Physics About Magnetism, They’ve Explored It


If you find something out by exploring the 19th century physics of magnetism you have not defied the 19th century physics of magnetism. You’ve explored, not defied. So, finding asymmetry in magnetic coupling could be something which defies 19 th century physics. Neither you – I assume – nor I – certainly – know enough about either 19th century physics or magnetism to be able to tell. Fortunately we’re both well enough equipped with logic to be able to read this story rather better than the PR flacks that wrote it:

Researchers defy 19th-century law of physics in 21st century boost for energy efficiency


Dr Jordi Prat-Camps, a research fellow at the University of Sussex, has for the first time demonstrated that the coupling between two magnetic elements can be made extremely asymmetrical. Working with colleagues from the Austrian Academy of Sciences and University of Innsbruck, Dr Prat-Camps’ research rips up the physics rule book by showing it is possible to make one magnet connect to another without the connection happening in the opposite direction.

The findings run contrary to long-established beliefs of magnetic coupling, which emerge from the four Maxwell equations dating back to the seminal works of Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell in the 19th century.

OK. It is interesting, it’s a decent finding, there are indeed real world applications. But, but:

By solving Maxwell’s equations analytically, the researchers very quickly demonstrated that not only could reciprocity be broken down but that, the coupling could be made maximally asymmetric, whereby the coupling from A to B would be different from zero but from B to A it would be exactly zero.

If you’ve reached your finding by solving Maxwell’s Equations then you’ve not defied Maxwell’s Equations, nor the 19th century physics embodied in them, have you? You’ve noted – interestingly – something that people hadn’t seen in that physics, those equations, before. But that’s rather different.

Defying previous science is realising that burning is adding oxygen, not expelling phlogiston. The continents float around on the magma, not rise and fall in and out of it. Maxwell’s Equations solved to show magnetic asymmetry is the use, not defiance, of Maxwell’s Equations.


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