Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Comment is Published

A comment I wrote on an American Journal of Physics paper from last April has now been published by the journal and appears on their site:


(It's pretty far down the page, the third item in the Notes and Discussions section, and followed by the response by the authors of the original paper.)

The comment is also posted for unrestricted viewing on arxiv.org: http://arxiv.org/abs/1005.3841.

Unfortunately, there's no way to view the response to the comment, by the authors of the original paper, other than by looking in the AJP which requires a subscription. If I may paraphrase, basically, the authors agree with all of my claims except for the last, and go on to show that the empirically-determined result for the spin-orbit coupling can continue to be obtained even after inclusion of hidden momentum as required according to the modern textbooks.

It was a surprise to me when they did this, I have to admit. So I tried to reproduce their result, but there aren't very many details in their response, so when they said they included the hidden momentum in the Bohr postulate that orbital angular momentum is quantized, I interpreted it differently than they meant. I literally put the hidden angular momentum in the angular momentum that is quantized, whereas as I found out empirically and eventually confirmed through correspondence, the comment response doesn't assume this, it only includes the hidden momentum in the equation for the electron velocity. How I did it is presented in the arxiv paper linked to below.

So then when the hidden momentum is included in this way the result no longer agrees with experiment, as I expected it wouldn't. At that point I thought the response to my comment as simply in error. When we figured out through correspondence that the assumptions of their and my analyses were different, then I decided to submit my analysis as a separate paper, but only after I went further with it by linking in the so-called "hidden energy," that must accompany the hidden momentum.

It is only very simple relativistic covariance arguments that are required to prove that existence of hidden momentum implies existence of hidden energy. When I put in the hidden energy then surprisingly to me, the experimental result was recovered in the conventional general method of analysis that includes the Thomas precession. So this is saying that if we re-examine the whole semiclassical atom spin-orbit coupling analysis using the electrodynamic equations according to the modern electrodynamics textbooks (e.g., Jackson 3rd edition but not Jackson 2nd edition, which doesn't include hidden momentum in the equation of translational motion of a magnetic dipole), the expected result is obtained and involves in an essential way the Thomas precession that contributes a necessary factor of one-half. However I was surprised by this also, because I expected to get the correct result only by not invoking the Thomas precession, because I don't think the Thomas precession can affect the energy as argued originally by Thomas and retained in textbooks to the present day.

For a couple of reasons I think the Thomas precession as only a kinematical effect should not reduce the spin-orbit coupling energy. The most powerful argument I have for this belief is that if the T.P. does affect the energy as usually thought, then it will contradict the energy value one will obtain if the energy to invert the orbit is calculated, as opposed to the energy to invert the spin, as is usually done. But, these are two equally-valid ways to compute the same quantity, and simply must obtain the same result. So I think there is more to be learned here and intend to revisit the problem at some point in the not-too-distant future.

As I have already mentioned, and wanted to mention especially to anyone who comes here on account of seeing the comment in AJP, I have written a response to the response to my comment and posted it on arxiv (here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.0495 ). I also submitted the latter to AJP but it has been rejected, although two out of three referee reports were quite positive and unambiguously recommended publication. The third was equally unambiguous in the other direction and AJP is a very conservative journal, of course, so it's not surprising the paper has been rejected on account of one out of three reviews being negative. The reviews are posted in the previous posting here. I will respond to the negative review eventually but it will take a while. I will take the referee's suggestion to see what the BMT equation has to say about it. I don't think he will turn out to be correct (that I double-counted the spin-orbit orientational potential energy somehow) but I will give it my best to prove or disprove whether it's true. But it is not my top priority to do this right now so it will have to wait.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Reviews and a Decision in Today

Today I received a decision from American Journal of Physics regarding publication of my most-recent paper, that is posted here: http://arxiv.org/abs/1009.0495

Two of the reviews are quite positive but the third not. Naturally the editor decided against publication.

Reviewer 1 report:

The paper is very interesting indeed. Continuing the classical analysis of spin-orbit coupling in hydrogenlike atoms, the author suggests including the ‘hidden energy’ of an orbiting electron into the total energy balance. He notices that ‘hidden energy’ has been introduced by Hnizdo to obtain a relativistically covariant description of classical electrodynamics with ‘hidden momentum’. Although the ‘hidden energy’ is not a well recognized quantity to the moment and, in particular, is not accounted in the standard expression for the electromagnetic energy-momentum tensor, simple examples of a motion of a magnetic dipole in an external electric field (to be omitted in this report) show a reality of ‘hidden energy’ in the same extend, like ‘hidden momentum’.

In this respect I completely support the idea of the author to involve ‘hidden energy’ in the analysis of non-Coulomb interactions of the classical hydrogenlike atoms. It is shown that the inclusion of ‘hidden energy’ leaves the spin-orbit interval unmodified, when ‘hidden angular momentum’ along with the kinetic angular momentum is accounted in the modified second Bohr postulate. This result implies, in particular, that ‘hidden momentum’ should be added to kinetic momentum in the de Broglie relationship, too. If we believe that the classical approach to hydrogenlike atoms is able to give the same value of spin-orbit splitting, like the relativistic quantum mechanics, we must recognize the validity of the results of this paper, which, in general, look non-trivial. In particular, for a particle with spin resting in an external electric field and possessing the ‘hidden momentum’ P_hidden, its de Broglie wavelength λ is no longer infinite, but rather is defined by the relationship

λ= h/P_hidden

Correspondingly, it seems that the Heisenberg uncertainty principle should also include the ‘hidden momentum’.

Thus the present work, like any other interesting paper, induces new interesting questions and certainly deserves to be published.

As the whole, the paper has been written in a clear enough way, but I recommend some minor amendments:

1. Abstract, after the words “In response to a comment,…” the reference to Lush comment should be indicated; otherwise, the sense of this phrase is unclear.

2. First paragraph of Introduction, the sentence “Hidden momentum refers to mechanical momentum of a current carrying body…” should be modified as “Hidden momentum refers to mechanical momentum of a current carrying non-conducting body…”. This specification is essential, because for conducting body we get its polarization in an external electric field instead of ‘hidden momentum’.

3. Section 4, second like: “Reference 3” should be replaced by “Reference 7”.

If the author agrees with these remarks, I recommend the paper for publication in Am. J. Phys.

Reviewer 2 did not provide a report, according to the AJP editor. (However, Reviewer 4 refers to a comment by Reviewer 2.)

Reviewer 3 report:

This paper is a careful study of the implications of the hidden momentum for the spin-orbit coupling in a semiclassical (Bohr) model of the hydrogen atom.

The author shows that the correct empirical value of the spin-orbit coupling is obtained when not only the forces due to the moving electron's electric dipole moment and hidden momentum but also its hidden energy are included, if the orbit-quantizing postulate of Bohr is reformulated in terms of the total orbital angular momentum, i.e., kinetic plus hidden, of the electron. This analysis demonstrates nicely that the assumption that the existence of intrinsic magnetic moment of the electron implies that it has the same hidden linear momentum in an external electric field as a classical macroscopic current-carying body is consistent with the correct value of the spin-orbit coupling in the semi-classical hydrogen atom. I recommend publication.

There are some very minor things that can be taken care of in the proofs. I think that the -/+ sign of the term delta_{+/-} in Eq. (30) should be replaced by just + since the term itself is defined with the -/+ sign in equation (13);"Reference 3" in the 1st sentence of Section IV should presumably read "Reference 7"; some references do not have page numbers.

Reviewer 4 report:

I don’t think I have ever found myself in such drastic disagreement with other reviewers (referees 1 and 3) as in the case of this paper. However, I do agree with referee #2 that the paper is not self-contained and that it should not be published, although my reasons – explained below - are of a different nature. I don’t mind too much having to pick up a previous issue of the AJP to acquaint myself with the paper by Kholmetskii, Missevitch, and Yarman (KMY), but being forced to making guesses about the contents of references 2 and 7 in Lush’s manuscript is almost asking for a rejection.

Now, most of these objections to MS 23826 are fairly subjective. I am recommending against publication based solely on the physics contained in the paper. Both Lush’s paper as well as the original KMY article that initiated this exchange are plagued with misunderstandings about spin-orbit coupling, reference frames, Thomas precession, and hidden momentum/energy. In my opinion, KMY should not have been accepted for publication. But since it is already in print and this is not a review of KMY, I will constrain myself to Lush’s manuscript. Lush is correct when he states that (in the laboratory frame) the dynamical equation should be “Eq. (28) of Reference 1, with appropriate modification to account for the halving of the non-Coulomb force due to the presence of hidden momentum.” Unfortunately, in Section V he adds a hidden energy contribution H± to the spin-orbit V± without realizing that the latter already contains the hidden energy contribution. The source of the confusion here, as in KMY, seems to be the mixing of energy contributions calculated in different frames, which leads to a double-counting and the necessity for a modification of the Bohr postulate in order to bring the prediction back into agreement with experiment. In anticipation of rebuttals to my comments, I would suggest, following reviewer #2, that KMY and Lush “duke it out in private”. More specifically, they should answer the following questions.

1.Have they checked their claims against the Bargmann-Michel-Telegdi equation? This is a relativistic equation, so all hidden energy/momentum terms are included ab initio. The Bohr postulates are irrelevant here, since the basic problem is one of classical energy contributions.

2.Instead of modifying Bohr’s postulates, why not go directly to the Schrödinger equation with the energy terms they claim should be included? Will they have to modify the postulates of quantum mechanics too?

In essence, then, my recommendation against publication stems from my conviction that these papers represent a step backward in our understanding of the spin-orbit coupling and the Thomas precession.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An interesting feature of the quasiclassical atom

As everyone who's taken a college level physics class should know, the problem of the classical atom in the days of Rutherford, with (for hydrogen, say) the electron orbiting the proton like the moon orbits the earth, is radiative decay. This system has a nonzero, nonstationary, electric dipole moment, and the radiation intensity due to this is proportional to the square of the magnitude of the electric dipole acceleration. This causes energy loss via radiation reaction, and the classical atom decays to a point in a small fraction of a second.

Something I've come to realize just recently however is that if the electron has an intrinsic magnetic moment (which of course it does, unbeknownst to Rutherford, or Bohr in 1913), this radiative decay is no longer so obviously necessarily the case. This is because a moving magnetic dipole necessarily acquires an electric dipole moment, as the cross product of the magnetic moment vector with its velocity, and it's easy to arrange things so that this opposes the electric dipole moment part that's due to the separation of charge. For example, if the electron is in a circular orbit and its intrinsic magnetic moment is oriented perpendicular to the orbital plane, the electric dipole moments from the two sources (separation of charge and moving magnetic dipole) are either parallel or antiparallel, depending on the orbital direction.

So then, for a perfectly circular orbit, since the magnitude of the motion-acquired electric dipole is proportional to the velocity, and the velocity increases as the orbital radius shrinks, whilst the dipole moment due to the separation of charge shrinks, there is a unique radius where the total electric dipole moment vanishes. If the quasiclassical atom were dynamically stable otherwise at this radius, it would not need to decay radiatively.

When this realization came to me the other day, the next thing I wanted to do was determine what this radius would be and whether it would turn out to be the Bohr radius. After all, it will certainly involve Planck's constant via the intrinsic magnetic moment being the Bohr magneton (which is e * hbar/ (m_e * c) in Gaussian units).

Turns out, the radius where the electric dipole moment vanishes is not the Bohr radius. The formula for it is easy to get, but it isn't much like the Bohr radius formula, although it also involves the charge and mass and h-bar but in the wrong powers and also has the speed of light which is absent in the Bohr radius formula. In magnitude however the radius is about a couple of orders of magnitude smaller than the Bohr radius. So it's between the atomic scale and the nuclear scale. Isn't it interesting that the scale where the two dipole moments can cancel is near the atomic scale? I think so. It's worth remembering here that in the classical atom without spin there is nothing obvious to determine scale at all.

I suppose, there's no reason for this particular radius to be dynamically preferrred, in the sense of it being a local energy minima. The dipole moment can momentarily vanish yet its acceleration not. So it has no direct particular significance. I think it's interesting though that acquired electric dipole moment is about the right magnitude so that if it jiggled around at the orbital frequency and just so, it might cancel the charge-separation dipole acceleration. After all, it's not the total electric dipole moment that has to vanish but rather its acceleration.

This is something I'm going to pursue further. I suspect pretty strongly that nobody has ever investigated it. When people originally tried to make the classical atom work, they had no knowledge of the electron spin. Then, within a year or so of the spin becoming known, both the Schroedinger and Heisenberg formulations of quantum theory were established and completely supplanted the classical atom idea (for good reason). A couple of years later the existence of the spin and the spin orbit coupling were even fully described by Dirac's relativistic quantum theory. Physicists have never looked back, but fortunately they have me willing to go back and make sure they didn't miss something important.

Here is how to get an equation of nonradiativity of electric dipole radiation for a classical atom where the particles are allowed to have intrinsic spin and associated intrinsic magnetic moment.

Let d represent the total electric dipole moment of the atom. Since the electric dipole radiation intensity is proportional to |d^2d/dt^2|^2, and assuming d is an ordinary vector, the nonradiativity requirement can be expressed simply as d^2d/dt^2 = 0.

For simplicity, I will treat hydrogen, but the approach generalizes to more complex atoms easily enough.

The total electric dipole moment of the atom consists of a part due to separation of the point charges, and, since the electron is also intrinsically a magnetic dipole, a part v x m/c due to the translational motion of the electron, where "x" indicates the vector cross product. So the total electric dipole moment is, for hydrogen

d = -e r + v x m/c

where e is the fundamental charge, r is the displacement of the electron from the proton, v = dr/dt is the electron velocity, c is the speed of light (approximating that the proton is stationary), and m is the intrinsic magnetic moment of the electron (which is known to be the Bohr magneton). The condition d^2d/dt^2 = 0 is then easily found to be equivalent to

e c a = (da/dt) x m + v x (d^2m/dt^2) + 2a x (dm/dt)

where a = dv/dt = d^2r/dt^2

It's also possible to write an equation for magnetic dipole nonradiativity, and that one obtains something like quantization of the orbital angular momentum, if the nuclear magnetic moment is not neglected. However the composite nature of a nucleus even consisting of a single proton cannot be disregarded here, so I was forced to consider Positronium. In Positronium I get that the magnetic dipole radiation vanishes if the orbital angular momentum is (3/4)*h-bar, if it is assumed the electron spin component parallel to the orbital angular momentum is h-bar/2. It would be more interesting if the factor of 3/4 were not present, of course, but another problem is that the magnetic dipole radiation intensity is negligible compared to the electric dipole radiation intensity, in the atomic scale (although not at the nuclear scale, where the magnetic dipole radiation intensity becomes larger than the electric). So naturally it's more interesting if the electric dipole radiation could be shown to vanish for a nonzero atomic radius. I simply never until recently recognized it could even plausibly vanish, because I was not realizing the total electric dipole moment has the additional contribution due to the intrinsic magnetic moment. I knew about the acquired electric dipole moment of a moving magnetic dipole, but I failed to realize it must contribute to the radiation intensity in this way.

So now I am trying to determine if there are any interesting consequences of this equation, that might also correspond to known physics.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Two faces of one coin?

As a model of atomic spin-orbit interaction in atomic hydrogen, consider two continuous-loop superconducting wire coil magnets, one larger than the other, in free-fall in outer space. Once set up, a current will circulate indefinitely without any applied voltage in a superconducting wire loop, creating a permanent magnet. Think of the small coil's magnetic dipole moment as representing the electron intrinsic magnetic moment due to its spin, and the large coil's as representing the electron orbital magnetic moment. The amount of current and number of windings here are arbitrary and not necessarily the same in both coils.

Now suppose the smaller coil is located within the empty space in the center of the larger, and that the solenoidal axes of the two coils are not perfectly aligned. Then, basic electromagnetics tells us the two coils will mutually precess. That is, the axis of each coil instantaneously precesses around the axis of the other. For the smaller coil inside the larger, this is very basic electromagnetic theory, since (assuming the inner coil is sufficiently small) the magnetic field due to the larger coil is for practical purposes here a constant value aligned with the large coil axis. The smaller coil, being an ideal current-loop magnetic dipole, feels a torque in the large coil's magnetic field, and according to basic mechanics the instantaneous change in the small coil angular momentum must equal the torque exactly. (The angular momentum of the coil is that of the circulating electrons forming the current.) However, since the torque at all times is perpendicular to the angular momentum of the small coil, it can't change the angular momentum magnitude, only its direction, and so the only allowed motion is the precession of the small coil around the axis of the larger.

For similar but slightly more complicated reasons, the larger coil also precesses around the axis of the smaller. The added complication to precession of the outer coil is that the magnetic field due to the smaller coil is not everywhere the same direction relative to the motion of the the charge carriers in the larger coil. The net force must be found by averaging over small current elements of the larger coil, but the end result is similar in that the larger coil also precesses instantaneously around the instantaneous axis of the other.

That the two coils are instantaneously precessing around each others' axes may seem difficult to envision, but visualization can be made easier by invoking the principle of conservation of angular momentum. If angular momentum is conserved, and there are no other torques acting on the coils than those already noted, the total angular momentum of the two coils must be a constant. Since the total angular momentum here is simply the vector sum of the angular momenta of the two coils, the only possible motions are those where the two coils precess around the total angular momentum direction with equal angular velocity. The situation is illustrated on Figure 1. The vector angular momenta of the large and small coils are represented as arrows labeled L and s, and their vector sum is J = L + s.

Figure 1

We should also consider what happens to the total magnetic moment of the system consisting of the two coils in free space. If the total magnetic moment is not stationary, energy will be lost as radiation into free space, and the precession motion will eventually cease as the angular momentum vectors come into alignment due to the radiation reactive forces. However, classical electrodynamics also tells us that the magnetic dipole moment of each coil is proportional to the angular momentum of each coil. Further, the constant of proprtionality is the same for each coil provided that the charge-to-mass ratio of the current carriers is the same for each coil. For our superconducting coils the charge carriers are electrons in each case, so it is concluded that stationarity of the total angular momentum implies in this case stationarity of the total magnetic moment as well.

If, instead of simply assuming that the total angular momentum is a constant of the motion, we had gone through the machinations of actually calculating the magnetic moments and fields and torques and rates of changes of the angular momenta of each of the coils, we would have found that indeed that angular momentum is conserved according to electrodynamics. Thus we have arrived at a pair of completely unsurprising conclusions. The total angular momentum and total magnetic moment of the isolated system of the two coils, that is not being acted on by any external mechanical or electromagnetic forces, are both constants of the motion.

Next it's worthwhile to consider the case where the charge carriers in one coil have a different charge-to-mass ratio than those in the other, and determine whether angular momentum and magnetic moment are still conserved in spite of this. So, suppose that the charge carriers in one of the coils are muons instead of electrons. The muonic charge is the same as the electron's, but the muon mass is much larger than the electron mass. If we suppose the current is kept constant in spite of switching the carriers from electrons to muons, then the magnetic field generated is the same, but the angular momentum of the muonic coil is much larger than it was for electrons. The torque on the muonic coil due to the electronic coil is unchanged, however, so the angular velocity of the precession must decrease in the muonic coil. The net effect is that although the total angular momentum remains approximately constant, in this case the total magnetic moment is no longer stationary. The moving total magnetic dipole moment radiates energy, and so the back-force of radiation reaction will cause the two coils eventually to align with each other. Although the total mechanical angular momentum of the system is no longer a constant of the motion, angular momentum is nonetheless conserved because the electromagnetic radiation also carries angular momentum, and the total of the mechanical and field angular momenta is constant.

To this point we have been considering only classical electrodynamics. However, when it was first recognized that electrons must possess an "intrinsic", or non-orbital, angular momentum and an associated intrinsic magnetic dipole moment, it was also immediately recognized that the constant of proportionality, or gyromagnetic ratio, between intrinsic angular momentum and magnetic moment must be twice the classically-expected value. This doubling of the gyromagnetic ratio is conventionally expressed by including in the expression for the magnetic moment in terms of the intrinsic angular momentum (or "spin"), an additional "g-factor" of two. This factor of two has never been derived from classical electrodynamic electron models, if it is assumed that the charge-to-mass ratio of the electron is a constant throughout its volume.

Now let us consider what happens when one of the two coils is allowed to have a nonunity g-factor. For an electron-like g-factor of two, the magnetic moment is doubled compared to the classical g-factor of unity, for a fixed value of angular momentum. If we suppose the g-factor of the small coil is changed to two, while keeping the large coil classical g-factor of unity (and returning again to electron currents in both coils), then it's clear that the rate of precession of the small coil is doubled. The magnetic field at the small coil due to the large coil is unchanged, but the torque on the small coil has doubled due to its magnetic moment doubling, whilst the small coil angular momentum is unchanged. This is a net doubling of the rate of precession of the small coil. However, the rate of precession of the large coil also doubles, since the magnetic field of the small coil that drives its precession has doubled. So, the total angular momentum is a constant of the motion, if there are no radiative effects. However, evaluating the total magnetic moment, it's plain that it cannot be stationary if the total angular momentum is stationary (and both coils are precessing), since the magnetic moments are no longer both in equal proportion to the coils' angular momenta. Thus, seen from afar, the magnetic moment of the system is precessing, and this type of motion must radiate electromagnetic energy and momentum, and decay due to radiation reactive force.

Finally, there is an important additional effect that needs to be added to our system of two electronic-current-carrying coils, if it is to be a useful toy representation of atomic spin-orbit coupling, and that is the Thomas precession. The Thomas precession (also sometimes called Wigner rotation) is a relativistic effect wherein a reference frame that is accelerating and translating relative to another must also rotate compared to the other. The effect of the Thomas precession is to approximately halve the rate of precession of the intrinsic spin of a particle with a g-factor of two such as an electron. If the small coil with the g-factor of two also undergoes Thomas precession, while the large coil does not, plainly the angular momentum will no longer be a constant of the motion, even neglecting radiation reaction, if there is no change in the rate of the precession of the large coil due to the Thomas precession acting on the small coil. But, the nature of the Thomas precession is such that it only acts on the electron intrinsic spin and not on the orbital angular momentum vector, represented here by the angular momentum of the current-carrying electrons of the large coil. Also, the Thomas precession has only reduced the rate of precession of the small coil, not its magnetic field as experienced by the large coil. So the rate of precession of the large coil cannot change as would be necessary to maintain total angular momentum constancy, and thus it's clear that the total mechanical angular momentum is not a constant of the motion. But what about the field angular momentum? Can it restore angular momentum constancy? It turns out it cannot. Calculating the total magnetic moment, we find that the factor of one-half due to the Thomas precession (the celebrated Thomas factor that resolved the spin-orbit coupling anomaly of the 1920s) has compensated the g-factor of two that previously caused the total magnetic moment to move in spite of stationarity of total angular momentum. Present the Thomas precession, we now have the situation of a stationary magnetic moment in spite of moving total angular momentum, so that there is no need for the motion of the total angular momentum to lead to radiative decay, nor require an external torque.

The precession of the total angular momentum, even absent an externally-applied magnetic field, due to the spin-orbit coupling is a feature of quantum theory, but it has been seen here to be simply the classical electrodynamic consequence of the electron possessing a g-factor of two. This raises a further question. Will this same sort of behavior, of motion of the total angular momentum but stationarity of total magnetic moment, occur for other g-factor values than two? It turns out, g=2 is the unique g factor where the total magnetic moment can be stationary in the presence of spin-orbit interaction. (The proof can be found in my paper, "Regarding L. H. Thomas's paper of 1927 ....," linked at right.) For any other g-factor, including the classical value of unity, in the presence of Thomas precession, neither the total angular momentum nor the total magnetic moment is a constant of the motion. This suggests to me that the electron g-factor being two may be related to or even a consequence of the Thomas precession.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

An interesting accident of history

I consider it an interesting accident of history that the first modern quantum theories, those of Heisenberg and Schroedinger, were developed just about simultaneously with the discovery of the so-called intrinsic spin of the electron. I wonder how different the development of theories of the atom would have been if the spin existence had been inferred sooner, so that it would have been known perhaps to such as Niels Bohr.

That an electron must possess an angular momentum separate from that associated with its orbital motion was inferred from atomic emission spectrum measurements performed by Zeeman, where the discharging gas was also subject to an externally-applied magnetic field. Although Zeeman published his observations in 1897, Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck published their conclusion that they implied an electron intrinsic spin and magnetic moment not until 1925, and it was in January 1926 that Schroedinger published his equation that is the foundation of wave mechanics, and its successful application to hydrogen-like atoms. Heisenberg's matrix mechanics formulation of quantum theory had already been published in 1925. Bohr's model had been published over a decade earlier, in 1913, and was followed in the next few years by Sommerfeld's generalization from circular to elliptical orbits. So, all the quantum theories prior to Dirac's relativistic theory (that found the first justification for the spin) were apparently developed with little or no knowledge of the electron spin, although both the Heisenberg and Schroedinger formulations were found to accommodate it readily enough, and strong contribution was made here by Pauli.

So then, Rutherford had no knowledge the electron was also a magnet when he developed the idea of an atom consisting of point-charge particles following trajectories determined by classical electrodynamics. Certainly he and others would have immediately recognized that the magnetic nature of the particles would influence the classical motion in interesting ways. Charged classical particles moving in magnetic fields feel forces accordingly, and further, when a magnetic dipole moves relative to a charged particle the charged particle will feel an electric force. This is due to the electric field induced by the time-varying magnetic field due to a moving magnet. The net result is that the dynamical picture of the point-charges-with-spin classical atom is vastly more complicated and interesting than the simple Rutherford charge-only model where the motion is essentially equivalent to Keplerian planetary orbital motion under gravitational force, apart from the small but important radiation reaction term that causes radiative decay of the classical Rutherfordian atom. In the absence of any working atomic model at the time, it's easy to imagine Rutherford and others such as Bohr setting to work to determine if this complex dynamics could lead to anything resembling the atom as understood from spectroscopic measurements and empirical models such as the Balmer and later Rydberg formulae.

An even greater interest would have been generated based on that the magnitude of the electron intrinsic angular momentum involves directly Planck's constant, h. Since 1888 and the publication of the Rydberg formula, it was known empirically that atomic spectra directly involve h. It was based on his knowledge of the Rydberg formula that Bohr proposed, with no particular justification other than that it worked, that atomic electron orbits could only be stable if the angular momentum were a whole-number multiple of h divided by two pi. In science new principles must usually be introduced only as the last resort, so prior to introducing this principle in such an ad hoc fashion, it's easy to imagine that Bohr would have worked to investigate what are the classical electrodynamics consequences of a spinning magnetic electron. Perhaps he would have noticed that his formula for the ground-state radius of the hydrogen atom can also be obtained by equating the mutual precession frequencies of the electron spin and orbital angular momenta. Then, attention would have been focused on why the latter is true, and whether perhaps atomic orbital quantization might merely be a classical-physics consequence of the existence of the intrinsic spin, rather than a new fundamental principle.

Hello from Quantum Skeptic

I'm starting this blog to raise awareness that in spite of conventional wisdom and what has been taught to several generations of physicists, the book is not yet closed on the issue of whether quantum mechanics is a fundamental theory. Indeed, it seems increasingly plausible that quantum behavior may be understandable as a result of relativistic classical electrodynamics between point-charge particles possessing intrinsic angular momentum.