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Electron spin or “classically non-describable two-valuedness”

MPS-Authors

Giulini,  Domenico
Quantum Gravity & Unified Theories, AEI-Golm, MPI for Gravitational Physics, Max Planck Society;

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StudHaP39-557.pdf
(Publisher version), 460KB

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Citation

Giulini, D. (2008). Electron spin or “classically non-describable two-valuedness”. Studies In History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies In History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 39(3), 557-578. doi:10.1016/j.shpsb.2008.03.005.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-13C8-1
Abstract
In December 1924 Wolfgang Pauli proposed the idea of an inner degree of freedom of the electron, which he insisted should be thought of as genuinely quantum mechanical in nature. Shortly thereafter Ralph Kronig and a little later Samuel Goudsmit and George Uhlenbeck took up a less radical stance by suggesting that this degree of freedom somehow corresponded to an inner rotational motion, though it was unclear from the very beginning how literal one was actually supposed to take this picture, since it was immediately recognised (already by Goudsmit and Uhlenbeck) that it would very likely lead to serious problems with Special Relativity if the model were to reproduce the electron's values for mass, charge, angular momentum, and magnetic moment. However, probably due to the then overwhelming impression that classical concepts were generally insufficient for the proper description of microscopic phenomena, a more detailed reasoning was never given. In this contribution I shall investigate in some detail what the restrictions on the physical quantities just mentioned are, if they are to be reproduced by rather simple classical models of the electron within the framework of Special Relativity. It turns out that surface stresses play a decisive role and that the question of whether a classical model for the electron does indeed contradict Special Relativity can only be answered on the basis of an exact solution, which has hitherto not been given.