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### If photons had electric charge

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 12:34 am
I was wondering if hypothetically the photon had electrical charge would electromagnetism still have unlimited range? Would electromagnetism behave differently if photons had electrical charge?

### Re: If photons had electric charge

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 11:57 am
Just riffing off the concept here...

-They couldn't be their own antiparticle (as they are now)
-They wouldn't be electromagnetic waves anymore -- since there's no place for charge to be in the wave
-We'd have incredible magnetic forces around *always* (since we'd have lightspeed currents flowing around us)
-Light couldn't always move at light speed because it would have to accelerate in any electric field (right?)

Oh, and just like with the problem of quantum gravity... these bosons would feel their own force. (So just as the graviton creates gravitons because it has mass/energy... and *those* gravitons create gravitons... etc until the universe destroys itself out of sheer exhaustion after making all those gravitons.) A charged photon would give off charged photons would give off charged photons...... so I imagine the forces would diverge / be infinite / please reset the universe and try again.

As for the *range*, having charge shouldn't affect that directly. The reason W+- bosons have a short range is not because they are charged, but because they have mass. (The easy example for this is the W's sibling, the Z0... which is neutral but still short-ranged because of a large mass).

Then again, having a universe completely filled with infinite charged photons would certainly shield the force of any given charge. Not that you'd notice... since there would be literally infinite forces everywhere.

All in all - I'm glad photons don't have a charge.

...and also, I kinda wanna see how Randall Munroe would answer this one as a What If

### Re: If photons had electric charge

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:47 pm
As for the *range*, having charge shouldn't affect that directly. The reason W+- bosons have a short range is not because they are charged, but because they have mass. (The easy example for this is the W's sibling, the Z0... which is neutral but still short-ranged because of a large mass).
So what if hypothetically the W Boson was massless?

### Re: If photons had electric charge

Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:16 pm
AlternateGravity wrote:So what if hypothetically the W Boson was massless?
Then the weak force would have infinite range, just like electromagnetism. Which means nucleons would start radioactively decaying left and right.

Though, you got me pondering the interesting question of something that's both massless (and traveling light speed) and charged. I poked around a bit and found out that gluons fit this bill (kinda). They are massless, and while they don't carry any electric charge, they do carry a color charge. So they are nearly an example of just what you were talking about... since that's just like if photons carried an electric charge.

Unlike with gravitons (where you get divergence), gluons don't cause huge infinities or destroy the universe (yay). So I guess my assessment above was too simplistic. There's a chance that you could form a new theory of electromagnetism where charged photons would behave sensibly. It would look way different than what we have not, but I can't rule it out.

For the gluons and the strong force, though... the question becomes: hey... if the gluon is massless, why doesn't the strong force have infinite range? Isn't that my whole point above? Massless = infinite range? Turns out that comes down to the details of QCD -- and the fact that color charges are confined. The same reason why you'd never find a single quark alone, you'd never find an isolated gluon, and that confinement (roughly) leads to the short-range of the strong force.

Whoa. Today I learned something about gluons.