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Talk:Magnetic field

It's been a while since I've done this stuff, and I don't have my textbook here to verify, but shouldn't we be using <math>\epsilon,\mu</math> instead of <math>\epsilon_0, \mu_0</math>? Or we can use H and D fields instead... am I correct?

Yes, you're correct. Using ε and μ would only be correct for linear media, using H and D would be more general. I fixed it by saying that the equations are only for free space -- generalities can stay at Maxwell's equations I think. -- Tim Starling 06:14 Apr 1, 2003 (UTC)

To Stephen: either magnetic field can be called "B" accurately, or we move some or all of this page to magnetic flux density. I don't like this "really it's H but we'll just call it B" business. It's too confusing. -- Tim Starling 08:49 11 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Tim: Too bad, life (and the English language) is confusing. =) The point is, that people are not entirely consistent in their terminology, and an encyclopedia should describe this. (In most cases, μ=1 so B=H and the point is moot. It's only when you're talking about both at once that you need two different names. In this case, Jackson goes by the historical names of magnetic field for H and magnetic induction for B. Purcell writes:

Even some modern writers who treat B as the primary field feel obliged to call it the magnetic induction because the name magnetic field was historically preempted by H. This seems clumsy and pedantic. If you go into the laboratory and ask a physicist what causes the pion trajectories in his bubble chamber to curve, he'll probably answer "magnetic field," not "magnetic induction." You will seldom hear a geophysicist refer to the earth's magnetic induction, or an astrophysicist talk about the magnetic induction of the galaxy. We propose to keep on calling B the magnetic field. As for H, although other names have been invented for it, we shall call it "the field H" or even "the magnetic field H".

And this is just Purcell's take. As you say, Griffiths calls H the auxiliary field, and Jackson (the god of electromagnetism) uses the historical names only when he has to distinguish B and H.

- Steven G. Johnson

At no point does Purcell say that B is formally, technically, or more accurately called magnetic induction. We are not bound by historical nomenclature, and the historical terms are not a priori "correct". We no longer refer to refractive index as "refrangibility" or to Uranus as "George's star". Common usage is what goes in dictionaries, historical usage is for the history books. This is my point: if B is magnetic field in common usage, then that definition is as "correct" as any other. But if, as you claim, B is "more accurately" called magnetic induction, it would be inappropriate to write an entire article referring to B as the magnetic field. The current situation is confusing in that we claim that the entire article is inaccurate. A student learning the material wishes to hold accurate information in their head, therefore every time they see "magnetic field" on this page, they will be distracted by a little mental note telling them that this usage is not to be trusted. -- Tim Starling 00:14 12 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Tim, people aren't consistent in their usage, and that sucks, but both usages need to be reported; describing usage is not the same thing as describing "correctness." On the one hand, the term magnetic induction is a historical one for B (a fact that would arguably be worth mentioning by itself), and it remains in present day usage when people want to disambiguate B and H (e.g. in Jackson, one of the most respected advanced electromagnetism texts, but also in 2003 physics journal articles, as a quick literature search will tell you). On the other hand, many many people (including physicists and Jackson himself) call B the magnetic field, especially when μ=1. - Steven G. Johnson

The article looks good now. Thanks. -- Tim Starling 01:04 12 Jun 2003 (UTC)

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