I've stumbled across a couple of papers which contain some very strange
information, yet are fully in line with Classical Electromagnetism and
semi-classical Quantum Mechanics:
C. F. Bohren, "How can a particle absorb more than the light incidentBriefly, these papers point out that a single atom is far, far smaller than a wavelength of light, yet an atom is able to intercept significant light, as if the 0.1nM atom behaves as a 300nM long-wire antenna. This seems to be a contradiction in physics. This problem has bugged me since about 1985 when I stumbled across the idea while arguing physics with colleagues at the Museum of Science in Boston.
The two papers above provide a solution. If an atom behaves as an
electromagnetic resonator similar to a coil/capacitor tank circuit, and if
the resonant frequency of the "atom/circuit" is the same as the frequency
of the incoming light, then the atom will absorb a tiny portion of an
wave and store it as a region of oscillating local EM fields surrounding
Oddly, these fields strongly interact with the
incoming light because they are naturally phase-locked to it.
The "trapped AC fields" around the atom act to cancel out some of the
light waves in a volume surrounding the atom. Is this impossible?
Energy cannot vanish! When EM energy is "cancelled out", the energy must
go somewhere. Correct. This is simply absorption. It's a circuit effect,
a localized "electrical transformer phenomenon", where some energy
vanishes from the light wave and ends up inside the structure of the atom.
EM energy flow around a small antenna (Poynting vector field)
The authors of the two above papers provide another way to visualize this.
If we superpose the EM field of the incoming light waves with the
oscillating EM dipole field surrounding the atom/resonator, and if we then
observe the superposed field shape and plot the Poynting vector field
(energy flow lines) surrounding the atom, we'll see that the addition of
the oscillating fields has *BENT* the Poynting vector field (the
energy-flow lines) of the incoming light waves throughout a significant
volume surrounding the atom. This is depicted in Fig. 1 above. The
energy-flow lines are bent towards the atom so that they "impact" on its
"surface." As a result, the atom gathers a large "sheaf" of incoming
electromagnetic energy flux, where the diameter of this "sheaf" is
hundreds of times larger than the known diameter of the atom (see fig 2.)
Angstrom-sized atoms can act as thousand-angstrom antennas.
In this way an atom behaves as an "electromagnetic funnel." It actively
"sucks" EM field-energy from its surroundings.
This cannot happen without the sharp resonance, the locally stored EM
energy, and the resulting dipole field surrounding the atom.
Weird, eh? Have you every heard anything like this before?
This phenomenon is well know to antenna designers. In fact, it is the
basis of operation of all portable AM radios. The wavelength of AM radio
signals is immensely larger than the size of a pocket radio. How can
these devices intercept significant energy? A 1/4-wave dipole should be
needed, yet at 1.5MHz, a 1/4-wave dipole is about 150 feet long! AM
radios rely upon the oscillating fields surrounding a coil/capacitor
circuit which is sharply tuned to resonate with the incoming EM waves.
The ferrite-core coil in a portable AM radio has a capacitor across it.
It is an "electromagnetic funnel" of the same type as I describe above
regarding atoms. This kind of tuned-circuit coil/capacitor antenna has
been understood at least since the time of Nikola Tesla. He used them as
part of his "worldwide wireless power "
I've never encountered these concepts in all of my physics reading. As
far as I know, they are not part of Quantum Mechanics. Yet they reveal
details of atom/photon interactions, as well as the stimulated emission
and lasers! These "oscillating fields" do not radiate from atoms (they
remain limited to the electromagnetic nearfield region surrounding an
atom, where "nearfield" is about 1/3-wavelength in diameter), and so they
do not really involve either the photons which fly between atoms, nor do
they involve the free-space EM waves which fly between atoms. The
oscillating fields can either be seen as a cloud of "virtual photons"
which builds up just before an atom absorbs a "real" photon... or they
can be seen as the familiar EM fields from classical physics, and we can
imagine the atom to be a tiny coil joined to a tiny capacitor.
Note that these bound, oscillating atomic fields must arise *BEFORE* an
atom intercepts a real photon. I find this sort of astounding. In most
of Quantum Mechanics we imagine that EM radiation is either particles or
it is waves. However in this case, the EM radiation seems to be waves
alone. The resonance-effect must build to a certain level BEFORE a
photon-interception even occurs. After all, if the atom had to absorb
photons in order to build up its oscillating bound fields, then it
couldn't absorb any photons in the first place. It appears that the atom
first absorbs energy from the classical EM field, and only later does it
experience a photon-capture event. Which is another way of saying that
first the atom experiences "virtual photon" interactions similar to those
in transparent solids, and only later absorbs a narrowband photon and
undergos an electron-state change.
Another issue: when the atom is first illuminated with EM waves, there are
no oscillating EM fields present, and so the atom cannot perform its
"energy funnel" trick, and it cannot absorb much energy from the
propagating EM waves at all. The atom will be transparent to that
frequency of radiation. However, if there is a bit of noise in the
system, then the atom will have a slight amount of field-oscillation
already. As the oscillating fields grow,
the atom absorbs incoming wave-energy at a higher rate, which makes the
which increases the absorption rate... and this suggests that the growth
of the oscillating fields is far faster than linear with time. It
doesn't just rise, instead it waits for awhile before suddenly and
exponentially going "bang!"
Interesting. A bit interesting.
An analogous situation would be to have a piece of cardboard laying flat
on the street during a windstorm. The cardboard sheet is stable as long
as a tiny corner is not poked up into the flow. If the tiny corner does
poke up, then it lifts the cardboard a tiny bit, which intercepts more
wind, which drives the cardboard upwards with greater force, etc., in a
runaway "mechanical reaction." The flat cardboard will initially sit
Then it will suddenly spring upwards into the wind and be flung violently
Just suppose that a "dead" atom is suddenly illuminated with EM waves. At
first it sits there trying to "start up". Then it finally grabs a tiny
bit of EM wave-energy. Once it has surrounded itself with weak AC fields,
its oscillation suddenly takes off like bandits, and the oscillating EM
fields pop up to maximum strength. Almost as if...
...had been struck...
...by a physical object. (See where this is leading?!!!)
An object like a TINY BASEBALL. Yet no such object is present. No such
object is needed.
Maybe wavefunctions don't "collapse" into particle events.
"All these fifty years of conscious brooding have brought me no nearer to the answer to the question 'what are light quanta?' Nowadays every Tom, Dick and Harry thinks he knows it, but he is mistaken" - A. Einstein, 1951
Another issue: the diameter of an atom is far, far smaller than that of
the wavelength of the light which the atom absorbs. For this reason, in
order to become an efficient "electromagnetic funnel", the intensity of
the trapped, oscillating fields must be extremely large at the 'surface'
the atom. We want the field strength to be significant at a distance of
up to 1/6 wavelength, which is hundreds of times the radius of an atom.
We could make an analogy with the AM portable radio
above, and we would see that the tiny "capacitor" within the atom would
experience a analogously huge AC voltage, while the "coil" within the atom
to support an absolutely immense AC electric current in order to spread
it's bound EM fields out into the entire electromagnetic nearfield region
surrounding the atom.
Think of it this way: in theory a portable AM radio could be made
thousands of times smaller than a normal-sized radio if the oscillating
current within its tuned antenna-circuit was allowed to grow large enough
to produce a volume-filling field which reaches out for many tens of feet
surrounding the radio. By reducing the size of the antenna-coil while
increasing the allowed limit on the oscillating current/voltage, we keep
the "electromagnetic funnel size" the same, even though the "physical
antenna size" becomes smaller and smaller. In theory the AM radio could
be reduced to the size of an atom, yet it could still intercept the
100-meter-wavelength EM waves of the AM radio band. It would simply need
to generate a field which was so intense at the surface of the tiny radio,
that the field extended for many tens of feet outwards from the radio.
Just imagine! An atom-sized radio circuit that creates a radio-frequency
field strong enough to bend AM radio signals for many tens of feet around
the radio, so that they flow into the circuit.
Obviously the "antenna coil" within the microscopic AM radio (and within
an atom!) would have to have a very low resistance, and the capacitor's
breakdown voltage would have to be extremely high. The question arises:
what is the "Q-factor" of the tuned circuit within a single atom? Is the
"coil" inside the atom a perfect conductor? Is the "Q-factor" infinite?
And, is the Q even linear with current? (I mean, do strange things happen
when the internal "current" within an atom grows to be extremely large?)
Now I'm on a roll. I hadn't thought this through until I started this
article. My subconscious is directly pouring information into my typing
fingers as needed. Feels very strange.
As a single atom absorbs field-oscillation energy from a light wave (no
photons yet!), the current and voltage within the atom grows higher and
higher, and the resonant AC EM fields around the atom become very intense
very large in diameter until ...something breaks. In conventional physics
we would say that an electron in the atom was forced to leap to a higher
energy level. In an AM radio circuit, we would say that the increasing
stored current in the tuned circuit finally burned out a wire (or perhaps
blew a fuse.)
In both cases the energy contained within the oscillating fields is
dumped into some other energy-storage mechanism, and the resonance of the
"circuit" is ruined. It's almost like discharging a capacitor, except the
act of discharge ends up altering its capacitance value. Or perhaps it's
like opening the loop in the RLC circuit during the short time that the
circuit current goes
to zero; when the energy is entirely within the "capacitor". (Or it is
shorting out the coil during the brief time that the voltage across the
capacitor goes to zero.) Perhaps I can build an electronic model of this
using MOS circuitry.
Upon absorbing one quantum of energy, the AC fields around the atom
freeze, they stop
oscillating. The energy has gone into lifting the electron to a higher
orbital, and orbital which has a different resonant frequency. (Note that
fields were already entirely in the nearfield region, their sudden
alteration during the zero-crossing point in time probably WON'T be
radiated as an EM pulse
which flys outwards from the atom.)
In the AM-
radio analogy, the stored-oscillation energy went into the heating of the
melting fuse. In the atom-analogy the energy went into the state-change
of the electron. The "circuit" has suffered a nonlinear event. It has
been "damaged." It might still have other resonant frequencies remaining,
but they are at frequencies other than the one which just finished
receiving a quantum of energy.
What if photons don't exist at all? What if the phenomenon of "photon capture" is actually an artifact of the nonlinear EM events within the "tuned circuit" inside of a single atom? What if an atom's electron, when at a certain orbital-level, behaves like a tuned circuit which can resonantly absorb energy from an oscillating EM field until it suffers a sudden breakdown which resembles a "quantum leap", but which involves no photons at all? With nonlinear wave mechanics involved, maybe we should assume that electrons and atoms themselves are waves in a field, and have no particle-like existence except during very brief events which occur in very small volumes of space.
All this is sheer speculation. However, it now has me very scared. I've
definitely crossed totally into the "crackpot realm", and I'm now saying
that perhaps Einstein was wrong, and the founders of Quantum Mechanics are
wrong, and modern physics is on a totally wrong and dead-end highway, and
space-filling electromagnetic fields have real existence apart from
photon-particles. The second step on the stairway to total insanity turns
out to be slippery, and the remaining steps take the form of a greased
slide which delivers one rapidly all the way to the bottom!
Now if I can just appeal to this resonance/funnel effect and therefore figure out how PHOTON EMISSION works without requiring photons, then I'll be ready for the big time. Any ideas?
BRAINSTORM! 9/10/99 Suppose that an atom/circuit has built up a large resonance signal. Suppose that the cycle has moved to the state where the atom's internal "capacitor" contains a large instantaneous voltage, and the instantaneous current in the "coil" is zero. Suppose we then break the connection between coil and capacitor. We have now stored energy as DC voltage across the capacitor. The oscillation ceases, although an external dipole field may remain behind. The atom's internal "capacitor" is "charged" (or we could say that the electron has been boosted to a higher state.)
For my next trick, I will attempt to pull a quantum-entanglement
instantaneous communication system out of a hat.
Nothing up my sleeves... Ooops! Naked Singularity! Wrong hat!
(I take a size seven and a half.)
If these AC atomic EM fields are real, what other impacts might they have
on Electrodynamics? In solid matter, these fields must interact with
those of neighboring atoms. Perhaps chemical bonds are based on these
oscillating classical fields, rather than upon electron-sharing. Or
perhaps these fields "sculpt" the distribution of electrons in the
orbitals. And how do these AC atomic
fields affect our understanding of "refractive index", or "conductivity"?
Can energy be transferred via these fields rather than via EM waves? How
do they affect our very picture of the internal structure of an atom?
What if the atom is a linear electromagnetic receiver with a sort of
"energy counter" which can be bumped up to higher levels when the trapped
resonant waves become intense? Can we generate strong EM fields and
thereby manipulate the "tuned circuits" inside of atoms at off-resonant
frequencies? If so, might we be able to alter the opacity of matter, or
alter its refractive index, or affect chemical bonds directly through
externally-applied EM fields? What odd things might occur if the
externally-applied EM fields cause the bound AC oscillations of atoms to
ROTATE with X-Y quadrature oscillation, rather than just oscillating in a
That's enough for now. My brain is smoking. Just *what* my brain
has been smoking is the real question. ;)