Measured Against Reality

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The bizarre and intriguing story of Oleg Jefimenko and the solutions to Maxwell's Equations

I recently heard the story of Oleg Jefimenko during a lecture on Electrodynamics, specifically the general solution to Maxwell’s Equations.

Jefimenko’s tiny bit of fame comes from Jefimenko’s Equations, which are the general solution to Maxwell’s equations expressed solely in terms of sources, that is charge and current distributions. The equations are messy and difficult to work with, and aren’t used much in practice. But they do reveal certain bits of physics (such as the applicability of the quasistatic approximation (the link goes to a thermodynamics page, but the idea is the same) and that fields must be created by sources), and it’s always nice to have the general solution to a problem available.

These equations weren’t written down until 1966, about a century after Maxwell’s Equations were known. Some people will claim (as the Wikipedia article cited does) that Jefimenko’s Equations were written down earlier, but those earlier versions are always slightly different and not quite complete. What’s really funny is that Jefimenko wrote them down in an attempt to formulate an alternative to Maxwell’s equations.

When my current Professor, David Griffiths, was in the process of writing a paper on the subject, he independently derived Jefimenko’s equations, and tried to figure out if anyone had done it before. Other than some slightly tricky and annoying math, they’re not hard to derive, so someone must have done it. He found that Jefimenko had written them in a book that was published by a company that had only published one other work, also by Jefimenko (apparently regular publishers wouldn’t take his books, so he went to a prestige press). He contacted Jefimenko, and Jefimenko didn’t believe that he had solved Maxwell’s equations, but that he had created an electromagnetic theory separate from (and doubtless better than) Maxwell’s. Of course he had done no such thing, his formulation is exactly equivalent to Maxwell’s, but he wasn’t buying it.

According to Griffiths, Jefimenko currently submits one or two papers a week to American journals, gets denied, then publishes them in Europe (where review is apparently not as stringent). I don’t know what they’re about, the Wikipedia article says he focuses on overthrowing Einstein’s General Relativity and Maxwell.

I found this story behind some esoteric equations to be pretty amusing, and thought others might agree. I hope you’ve enjoyed the convoluted and intriguing story behind Jefimenko’s equations.

[Most of my information comes from a lecture with Griffiths, and as such could not be found online. Anything that is available online has been referenced.]

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  • Funny!@

    By Blogger Josh, at 8:09 AM, April 25, 2007  

  • Hmmm. The derivation of magnetism as simply a relativistic correction to electrostatics results in a much more elegant solution and pretty much obviates the entire argument AFICT. Magnetism becomes an artifact rather than a "real" field.

    By Blogger Renaissance, at 11:05 AM, April 25, 2007  

  • if oleg was taken seriously for one minute, electromagnetics would be gone.
    an electrostatic motor of his or ben franklins would make magnets obsolete. we can't have that...
    with air bearings, a motor of this type would get you a trip to gone;(

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:04 PM, June 26, 2007  

  • Cheap shot. Jefimenko never claimed to replace Maxwell's theory, but to extend it by supplying missing causal relations. Before you start jumping up and down, recollect that E-M as it's usually taught is the Hertz-Heaviside version. The electron hadn't been discovered in Maxwell's day. Reworking Maxwell has a long, respectable history.

    Despite your allegations, Griffith called the equations "Jefimenko's equations" in his paper, and a current search shows ongoing research referencing them.

    Finally, if you get a chance, you might want to read Jefimenko's books. They are very clearly written, and you might find them interesting if you like E-M. Try "Causality, Electromagnetic Induction, and Gravitation".

    Gravitation?? Yes, he built on an idea of Oliver Heaviside's. The result is a consistent, falsifiable theory. Does it attract cranks? Sure. Is it wrong? We don't know yet.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:02 AM, December 06, 2009  

  • OK clever dick. Where's your proof that time-variable electric and magnetic fields cannot cause each other? You display your weakness by falling for the claims of someone who got there second. Or rather for what you make out to be the claims of someone who got there second, which, in the circumstances as they appear, is despicable. I trust you have no aspiration to retrain in order to become a scientist. I assume fromm your spiel that you are an American. There's a certain kind of American, who's never been anywhere else because 'what would be the point?' who thinks he knows everything, and expects others to be impressed by that. Not me.

    Let us all know when you've written a paper, or a book, or anything worth reading.

    By Extreme Contrast, Thank You very much Anonymous 12:02 AM Dec 06 2009 (NOT Anonymous 4:04 PM June 26, 2007!) for your informative, measured and interesting comments. Someone worth reading.
    I admire your acute sense of humour Josh. Unfortunately I can't can't anything remotely funny about this ignorant and bigoted outburst.

    By Anonymous Christopher Johns, at 2:54 PM, July 01, 2010  

  • first of all, i would like to thank stupac2 for this great article. I had derived the jefimenko equation independently(not in the same form but essentially equivalent). I was so excited to stumble upon a new theory that not only replaces relativity and EM but is better. My joy was short-lived till i read about jeffimenko equation and lorentz's self force in David Griffith book on Electromagnetism. I feel more sorry for jeffimenko than me for not getting any recognition. I hate scientific community for ignoring great work of such scientists that their name is lost forever in the history. stupac2 or any1 else can message me on my gmail to discuss about jeffimenko theory.

    By Blogger sunny2761990, at 1:10 AM, February 12, 2011  

  • Jefimenko was a complete believer in 'field theory' but rejected Maxwell's false theory of oscillations in the aether as the source of EM. The math of ANY field theory with asynchronous action leads to Jefimenko-type causal equations linking retarded scalar & vector potentials to their remote sources that are either stationary or in relative motion (currents).
    'Magnetic' fields are just the v/c correction terms to static interactions, as such they have no independent reality & cannot CAUSE electric fields.
    Read ALL Jefimenko's books to stimulate your mind; they won't help you pass your EM exams but they will make you a better thinker (they are also very well written). Oleg was a true original - we'll miss him.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:41 PM, March 21, 2011  

  • it's a great story, I think we need more information about the same term because there are to many equations about it and we also need to understand each part about it.

    By Anonymous viagra online, at 2:06 PM, April 25, 2011  

  • I really like this, I want to have the chance of read more about it because the story of Oleg is amazing

    By Anonymous generic viagra facts, at 6:32 AM, September 08, 2011  

  • Really useful info, lots of thanks for your post.

    By Anonymous, at 10:44 AM, October 09, 2011  

  • This can't really work, I believe like this.

    By Anonymous escort, at 3:09 PM, January 30, 2012  

  • I was trying to search why cant we talk about speed of gravitational effects. It led me to know the story of Jefimenko and so it made me more curious and it led me to this site. The place where I live not everyday we can have a conversation with a teacher like Griffiths. Thanks for sharing and keep sharing .

    By Blogger Illuminatus, at 11:45 PM, November 28, 2014  

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