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Published by Terry Pilling

Elementary introduction to magnetic monopoles including the history involving Henri Poincare, Kristian Birkland, and Paul Dirac, the derivations, and some explicit computer programs in C to calculate the trajectories of charged particles in the electromagnetic field of a monopole. The article finishes with a discussion of the search for magnetic monopoles in the laboratory and the interesting "Valentine's Event" of 1983.

Elementary introduction to magnetic monopoles including the history involving Henri Poincare, Kristian Birkland, and Paul Dirac, the derivations, and some explicit computer programs in C to calculate the trajectories of charged particles in the electromagnetic field of a monopole. The article finishes with a discussion of the search for magnetic monopoles in the laboratory and the interesting "Valentine's Event" of 1983.

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Magnetic Monopoles

Terry Pilling

∗

Department of Physics, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota 58105

(Dated: 2008)Magnetic monopoles have been studied theoretically and searched for experimentally for manyyears. In this lecture I will begin by explaining what magnetic monopoles are and why manyphysicists hope they exist. We will explore some consequences of their existence such as what wouldhappen if a charged particle like a proton happened to come across a magnetic monopole. In theprocess we will explain why the Earth is surrounded by bands of radiation called the Van Allenbelts. We also include an english translation of the ﬁrst paper which discusses the orbits of chargedparticles in the ﬁeld of a magnetic monopole by Henri Poincar´e in 1896. We then use algebraictopology to derive Dirac’s famous discovery of 1931 that if magnetic monopoles exist it explains oneof the greatest mystery’s of physics: the fact that electric charge is quantized. In the ﬁnal sectionwe will discuss one of the techniques that experimental physicists have been using to try and detectthese elusive particles. General references to the material in this lecture can be found in [1–4] andthe review [5].

ELECTRIC AND MAGNETIC FIELDS AND THELORENTZ FORCE

As is well known to physics students, the electric ﬁeldaround a point charge is given by Coulomb’s law

E

=14

πǫ

0

q r

3

r

(1)where

ǫ

0

= 8

.

85

×

10

−

12

C

2

Nm

2

is the usual electric permit-tivity of empty space. A point charge could be called an‘electric pole’ or an ‘electric monopole’ if you liked sinceit is an isolated point which is a source or a sink for theelectric ﬁeld lines. This terminology continues with anelectric dipole, which consists of a positive charge and anegative charge separated by a distance with the electricﬁeld lines beginning on the positive charge and ending onthe negative charge. Further still, one can deﬁne electricmultipoles which are more complicated ﬁeld conﬁgura-tions.When we look at magnetic ﬁelds, like that around a barmagnet or a current loop, we see that these are magneticdipoles since the ﬁelds have a similar pattern to that of the electric ﬁeld around a dipole.However magnetic dipole ﬁelds diﬀer in a very signif-icant way from the corresponding electric dipole ﬁeld inthat the magnetic ﬁeld forms closed loops and doesn’t be-gin or end on magnetic charges. For example, you maythink that if you take a bar magnet, with a north poleand a south pole on it, you could isolate just the northmagnetic pole by cutting the top oﬀ the magnet. Unfor-tunately the result is not a single north pole but simplytwo smaller magnets from what was originally one. Theplace where you made the cut has a south on one sideand at north on the other.This led physicists to wonder about whether or not wemay somehow ﬁnd, or make, a single magnetic pole – amagnetic monopole. Many groups have devised experi-ments to try and ﬁnd one.Several interesting recent developments in particlephysics have heightened the interest in monopoles.Firstly, many so-called ‘grand uniﬁed theories’ or GUTS,predict the existence of magnetic monopoles. Secondly,Paul Dirac showed long ago, using quantum ﬁeld theory,that if magnetic monopoles exist then electric charge isnecessarily quantized. This is interesting because there isno known reason why electric charge has to be quantizedand yet it is. So a magnetic monopole, along with Dirac’sreasoning, would constitute a reason for the mysteriousquantization of charge.Another interesting consequence of the existence of magnetic monopoles is that it would make Maxwell’sequations of electricity and magnetism symmetric un-der rotations between

E

and

B

. This kind of electric-magnetic symmetry is called ‘duality’ and has becomevery important in grand uniﬁed theories and string the-ory. Explicitly, in the presence of monopoles, Maxwell’sequations are

1

∇·

E

=

ρ

e

ǫ

0

∇·

B

=

ρ

m

−

∇×

E

=

∂ B∂t

+

J

m

∇×

B

=1

c

2

∂ E ∂t

+

µ

0

J

e

(2)In any case, just because we haven’t seen an isolatedmagnetic pole, or monopole, doesn’t dissuade curiousphysicists from exploring the consequences of their pos-sible existence. In fact, thinking about how they wouldhave to behave is an important step in devising clevernew ways to detect or even try to make one.

1

See Jackson’s

Classical Electrodynamics

equation 6.151 for thetransformation equations.

2So this is what we will now do. We will assume that amonopole exists and see what eﬀect it would have on theparticles around it. In particular we will begin by placinga magnetic monopole on the origin and shoot protons andelectrons at it and see what happens.A magnetic monopole must have a magnetic ﬁeldaround it that satisﬁes a similar equation to Coulomb’slaw for the electric ﬁeld around an electric monopole (i.e.electrically charged point particle). It would look likethis

B

=

µ

0

4

πq

∗

r

3

r

(3)where the magnetic permeability of space is

µ

0

= 4

π

×

10

−

7

N A

2

. This formula gives the units of

q

∗

as

C

·

ms

andso we could write

q

∗

= ˜

qc

so that ˜

q

would have unitsof Coulombs. The permeability and the permittivity of space are related by1

√

µ

0

ǫ

0

=

c

(4)where

c

= 3

.

0

×

10

8

m/s

is the speed of light in vacuum.Of course this is exactly what led Maxwell to realize thatlight is nothing but a traveling electromagnetic ﬁeld.

PROTON ENCOUNTERING A MAGNETICMONOPOLE

Before we actually calculate the scattering of a chargedparticle when it encounters a magnetic monopole I shouldmention the ﬁrst

2

instance of this calculation in the sci-entiﬁc literature. It is a letter by mathematician HenriPoincar´e in 1896 [6] in which he is refers to the experi-ments of his former student Kristian Birkeland, the ec-centric Norwegian physicist who did many experimentsexploring the properties of electricity and magnetism ingeneral, and the Aurora Borealis in particular. Start-ing around 1895. Birkeland aimed beams of electrons(called “cathode rays” in those days) at a magnet insidea vacuum chamber, and noted that they seemed to bechanneled towards its near magnetic pole. So he askedhis former teacher, the renowned French mathematicianHenri Poincar´e, to examine their motion. Poincar´e man-aged to solve the motion of charged particles near an iso-lated magnetic pole, showing that they spiraled aroundﬁeld lines and that they were repelled from regions of strong ﬁeld. Here is a translation of Poincar´e’s paper onthe subject:

2

It seems as though monopoles were mentioned two years earlierin 1894 by Pierre Curie, but I believe Poincar´e was the ﬁrst todeﬁne their precise properties.

Remarks on an experiment of Mr. Birkeland

By Henri Poincar´eIn applying a very strong magnet to aCrookes tube,

3

Mr. Birkeland observed anumber of new phenomena which he at ﬁrstattributed to a sort of attraction or repulsionexerted by the magnetic poles on the cathoderays. (

Archives des Sciences physiques et na-turelles de Gen´eve, l. I,4 p´eriode, juin 1896

).If a parallel beam of cathode rays is submit-ted to the action of a bar magnet whose axisis parallel to the direction of the rays, thisbeam becomes convergent, and at a partic-ular distance from the magnet the beam isconcentrated, such that the glass is meltedvery quickly.What gives the observation its paradox-ical character is that the phenomenon doesnot change when the poles of the magnet arereversed.On reﬂection, however, it can be seen thatno new hypothesis is required to explain theresults. Take the

z

axis parallel to the beamand passing through the pole of the magnetwith the cathode ray moving in the positive

z

direction

4

. I assume it to be situated in the

xz

plane on the positive

x

side; the magneticﬁeld in the plane will have two components:

B

z

parallel to the

z

axis and

B

x

parallel tothe

x

axis. The component

B

z

will have noeﬀect

5

. The other component,

B

x

, parallelto the

x

axis and in the positive

x

directionwill produce a deviation of the ray toward thepositive

y

, for example; the ray thus divertedwill now have a component

v

y

parallel to the

y

axis. The magnetic ﬁeld component

B

z

willthen act on this component and produce adeviation in the negative

x

direction; henceresulting in a convergent beam.I refer the reader to the footnotes where I have includedexplanations of some of the calculational details of this

3

A Crooke’s tube is a type of cathode ray tube which produceselectrons which then travel through the tube and hit a phospho-rescent screen. Applying a magnet to the tube one can aﬀect themotion of the electrons.

4

This is just like our electron moving toward a magnetic monopolewith a certain non-zero impact factor – which means the

z

axisis parallel to the beam. The setup is as follows:

B

= (

B

x

,

0

,B

z

)where

B

z

is negative (toward the incoming beam),

v

0

= (

v

x

,

0

,

0)with some impact factor in the positive

x

direction.

5

The Lorentz force is

F

=

qv

×

B

, and since

v

is in the

z

direction,the component

B

z

contributes no force and the

B

x

componentwill produce a force

F

y

in the positive

y

direction as Poincar´esays.

3short note of Poincar´e. We will now proceed to use theequation for the magnetic ﬁeld surrounding a monopoleand see if we can ﬁgure out how a charged particle likea proton would behave if we were to direct it toward amagnetic monopole.Freshman physics students will recall that a particle of electric charge

q

, moving with velocity

v

in a magneticﬁeld

B

will experience a force given by the Lorentz forceequation

F

=

qv

×

B

(5)where

×

denotes the vector ‘cross’ product.So lets ﬁgure out this force for the case of the

B

-ﬁeldat position vector

r

= (

x,y,z

) surrounding a magneticmonopole

B

x

=

µ

0

4

πq

∗

r

3

xB

y

=

µ

0

4

πq

∗

r

3

yB

z

=

µ

0

4

πq

∗

r

3

z

(6)and using the determinant technique for computing crossproducts,

F

=

q

ˆ

x

ˆ

y

ˆ

zv

x

v

y

v

z

B

x

B

y

B

z

(7)we have

F

x

=

q

(

v

y

B

z

−

v

z

B

y

)

F

y

=

q

(

v

z

B

x

−

v

x

B

z

)

F

z

=

q

(

v

x

B

y

−

v

y

B

x

)(8)We can ﬁnd the trajectory the charged particle willfollow by using Newton’s 2nd law

F

=

ma

which givesthe components of the acceleration

a

x

=

µ

0

qq

∗

4

πmr

3

(

v

y

z

−

v

z

y

)

a

y

=

µ

0

qq

∗

4

πmr

3

(

v

z

x

−

v

x

z

)

a

z

=

µ

0

qq

∗

4

πmr

3

(

v

x

y

−

v

y

x

)(9)where

r

= (

x

2

+

y

2

+

z

2

)

1

/

2

. Notice that

a

x

=

d

2

x/dt

2

and

v

x

=

dx/dt

so we see that this constitutes a set of three coupled second order diﬀerential equations for thetrajectory

r

(

t

) = [

x

(

t

)

,y

(

t

)

,z

(

t

)].We will try to ﬁnd an exact formula for the trajectorylater on, for now we merely want to see what will happento the charged particle when we shoot it at the monopole.For this we don’t need an exact formula for the trajectory,we can just look at discrete time steps and numericallyintegrate the above equations to plot the trajectory.

NUMERICAL INTEGRATION AND GRAPHINGTHE SOLUTION

The ﬁrst thing we do to ﬁnd the trajectory numeri-cally is give our charged particle an initial position andan initial velocity toward the monopole. We deﬁne ourcoordinate system so that the monopole is at the ori-gin, and choose the initial position of the particle to be

r

0

= (

b,

0

,

−

5) and initial velocity

v

0

= (0

,

0

,v

0

). In otherwords we are placing it at

−

5 on the z-axis and shoot-ing it in the positive

z

direction toward the monopole.We have also included an ‘aiming error’ of

b

. This isalso sometimes called an ‘impact factor’ and is simplythe amount that we are oﬀ the direct line for a head-oncollision.

FIG. 1. The spreadsheet used to generate the plots showingthe numerical values inside the cells.

Now with these initial conditions we can separate ourtime in to small time steps ∆

t

and use the quantities atone time to ﬁnd the new quantities one time step later.For example, the new positions one time step later willbe

x

1

=

x

0

+

v

0

x

∆

ty

1

=

y

0

+

v

0

y

∆

tz

1

=

z

0

+

v

0

z

∆

t

(10)and the new velocities one time step later are

v

1

x

=

v

0

x

+

a

0

x

∆

tv

1

y

=

v

0

y

+

a

0

y

∆

tv

1

z

=

v

0

z

+

a

0

z

∆

t

(11)

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