Foundations of Physics 34 (6):937-962 (2004)

We numerically solve the functional differential equations (FDEs) of 2-particle electrodynamics, using the full electrodynamic force obtained from the retarded Lienard–Wiechert potentials and the Lorentz force law. In contrast, the usual formulation uses only the Coulomb force (scalar potential), reducing the electrodynamic 2-body problem to a system of ordinary differential equations (ODEs). The ODE formulation is mathematically suspect since FDEs and ODEs are known to be incompatible; however, the Coulomb approximation to the full electrodynamic force has been believed to be adequate for physics. We can now test this long-standing belief by comparing the FDE solution with the ODE solution, in the historically interesting case of the classical hydrogen atom. The solutions differ. A key qualitative difference is that the full force involves a ‘delay’ torque. Our existing code is inadequate to calculate the detailed interaction of the delay torque with radiative damping. However, a symbolic calculation provides conditions under which the delay torque approximately balances (3rd order) radiative damping. Thus, further investigations are required, and it was prematurely concluded that radiative damping makes the classical hydrogen atom unstable. Solutions of FDEs naturally exhibit an infinite spectrum of discrete frequencies. The conclusion is that (a) the Coulomb force is not a valid approximation to the full electrodynamic force, so that (b) the n-body interaction needs to be reformulated in various current contexts such as molecular dynamics
Keywords many-body problem  protein dynamics  functional differential equations  relativistic many-body problem  interpretation of quantum mechanics
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DOI 10.1023/B:FOOP.0000034223.58332.d4
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