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Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

Essays and Shadowless Poetry by Alan T. Williams

Part I:  Sneaking Up On Einstein

As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain,
and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.
- Albert Einstein (1879–1955)


Michael Faraday
Michael Faraday


Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4 Section 5 Section 6

Chapter 4:  Faraday, Maxwell, and Newtonian Physics

Section 1:  The Great Mystery

In the history of science Albert Einstein stands on the shoulders of James Clerk Maxwell, among others. Maxwell stands on the shoulders of Michael Faraday, among others. And Faraday stands on the shoulders of Sir Humphry Davy, who was knighted on April 8, 1812, two days before his final lecture on Chemical Philosophy at the Royal Institution, London, England, April 10th. Michael Faraday, eager to acquire knowledge beyond the scope of his job as a bookbinder nearing the completion of his apprenticeship, was in the audience taking detailed notes of Davy's fourth and concluding lecture on the subject.

Following a series of unforeseen events at the Royal Institution, Faraday was officially hired as Sir Humphry's laboratory assistant on March 1, 1813.

Michael Faraday was born on September 22, 1791, in Newington Butts, Surrey, England. His father, James, born in Clapham, Yorkshire, was a blacksmith. In October, 1805, after a one year trial as an errand-boy, Michael was apprenticed as a bookbinder for seven years to bookseller and stationer George Riebau of 2 Blandford Street, London. After business hours, Faraday read every book he bound plus many other books available in the shop and Riebau's library. Faraday purchased and personalized Thomas Thomson's 4 volume Chemistry series by removing the binding, interleaving it with notes and drawings, then rebinding it himself. 1 He later personalized other books, including the amended notes he took during Humphry Davy's four Chemical Philosophy lectures which he bound into a single, now famous, quarto volume.

Faraday's abiding interest in electrical phenomena began in 1809, eleven years before Hans Christian Ørsted observed the deflection of a magnetic compass needle when electric current was passed through a wire. Biographer L. Pearce Williams describes Faraday's first encounter with electricity:

    One day while binding a volume of the Encyclopaedia Britannica he paused to glance at the article on electricity and was fascinated by what he read. This article of 127 double column pages of small print was written by one James Tytler who contributed a number of articles to the Encyclopaedia2

Faraday's self-taught early instruction includes three additional noteworthy resources. First, after reading the new 1809 edition of Dr Isaac Watts' book, The Improvement of the Mind, Faraday enthusiastically implemented the principles and suggestions contained therein. Second, in February, 1810, Faraday's interest in chemistry and electricity led him to the City Philosophical Society, founded in 1808 by John Tatum, who offered lectures on science. Third, researching his response to a Tatum lecture on electricity shortly after he joined the City Philosophical Society, Faraday learned of Mrs Jane Marcet's two volume work, Conversations on Chemistry3 which introduced him to electrochemical concepts and Humphry Davy's experiments at the Royal Institution, London, which was founded in 1799 by Benjamin Thompson (Count Rumford).

Among other participants at the City Philosophical Society lectures Faraday met Edward Magrath, Richard Phillips and Benjamin Abbott. The four young men became close, lifelong friends. Over the years Phillips, as the editor of the Philosophical Magazine, published many of Faraday's writings and occasionally requested a paper for third-party publication. Indeed, it was Phillips who sparked Faraday's interest in electromagnetism in 1821. Faraday's introduction to the great mystery of electromagnetism is captured by L. Pearce Williams in a single paragraph:

    The occasion for his serious interest in electromagnetism was a letter from his good friend R. Phillips requesting that Faraday write an historical account of this new branch of science for the Annals of Philosophy. To do this, Faraday had to repeat the major experiments performed by Øersted, Arago, Ampère, and others and also examine their theoretical views closely. When he began in the summer of 1821, he was still under the impresson that electromagnetic forces were rectilinear and analogous to other known forces. Only as he carefully followed the experimental trail blazed by others did he realize his error. Two papers were published as a result of his work: the 'Historical Sketch of Electromagnetism' which appeared in volumes 2 and 3 (new series) of the Annals of Philosophy and an article 'On some new Electro-Magnetical Motions, and on the Theory of Magnetism' which was published in volume 12 of the Quarterly Journal of Science. In these papers Faraday came to grips, for the first time, with the theory of electric and magnetic action; the result of his own experimental investigations and theoretical reasonings was a startling new phenomenon – electromagnetic rotation – which threatened to destroy all previous theoretical structures. 4

In October, 1820, Sir Humphry and Faraday had learned of Ørsted's discovery that electric current passed through a wire produced magnetic effects. They quickly repeated Ørsted's experiments but misinterpreted their results. Williams informs us, "As late as August 1821 [Faraday] thought the forces acting between the magnetic needle and the wire were simple attractions and repulsions."5

While repeating the experiments of Ørsted, Arago and Ampère for the 'Historical Sketch' requested by Phillips, Faraday realized that his previous understanding was not factually correct. He noted that when approaching a current-carrying wire with magnets of various strength that had the polar axis aligned perpendicular to the wire, "The effort of the wire is always to pass off at a right angle from the pole, indeed to go in a circle round it."6

Faraday's scientific endeavors were always guided by experiment and he had an exceptional ability to quickly and intuitively reconceptualize the underlying facts during the experimental process. The apparent tendency of the wire to rotate in a circle was no exception. L. Pearce Williams continues:

    To translate this 'effort' into an actual rotation, Faraday devised a most ingenious and simple apparatus. A magnet was stuck upright in a piece of wax at the bottom of a deep basin, and then the basin was filled with mercury until only the pole of the magnet was above its surface. A wire, free to revolve around the magnetic pole, was connected to a galvanic circuit. When the current was turned on, the wire rotated around the magnet. In a similar fashion, Faraday arranged things so that the magnet would rotate around the wire. The first electric motor had been invented; the rotatory power of the magnetic force surrounding a current-carrying wire was made obtrusively manifest; the conversion of electricity into mechanical work had been achieved, lending still further weight to [Faraday's] belief in the convertibility of all natural forces.
    The announcement of his discovery was made in the October 1821 issue of the Quarterly Journal of Science and it was this paper 'On some new Electro-Magnetical Motions, and on the Theory of Magnetism' which thrust Faraday into the first rank of European scientists. 7

It would be another ten years, August, 1831, before Faraday discovered the method of converting magnetism to electricity by electromagnetic induction.

Continued in Chapter 4, Section 2:  Faraday, Thomson, and Maxwell


Reference Notes (Click on the Note number to return to the text):

1  Williams, L. Pearce. Michael Faraday, A Biography, p. 11. Da Capo Press, Inc., New York, NY, 1965.  ISBN 0-306-80299-6

2  Enclyclopaedia Britannica, 3rd ed. (18 vols., Edinburgh, 1797), 1, XV. (Ref. 1, p. 14, footnote 12.)

3  Marcet, Jane. Conversations on Chemistry, 2 volumes, London, 1809. (Ref. 1, p. 19, footnote 28.)

4  Ref. 1, p. 153.

5  Ref. 1, p. 156.

6  Ibid.

7  Ref. 1, pp. 156-157.


Back to Chapter 3, Section 6:  The Source of Matter/Mass and Gravity: From Old to New Physics, Part 5.

Index:  Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm.

Last Edit:  August 7, 2010.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

This paper is a work in progress. Please check for the latest update before quoting in other venues the concepts and hypotheses presented here.
Thank you.


Copyright © 2002-2010 by Alan T. Williams. All rights reserved.