The role of light as the carrier of the electromagnetic force

Maxwell's famous paper, published in 1864, linked electricity and magnetism in one unified theory. This great unifying step forwards brought with it a bonus, in that it identified light as an electromagnetic wave which could carry energy and information.

It also presented light as a communicator, a carrier of force between electrically charged particles.

In the 20th century the picture changed, but not in essence. Light is sometimes represented by an electromagnetic wave and at other times it behaves like a particle. The electric force is transmitted in quantum 'lumps' as electrons emit photons and absorb photons. According to the theory of quantum electrodynamics, all of chemistry can be reduced to these fundamental processes. The theory is basic and elegant and makes the most accurate predictions known to science — which is as much as one can demand from any theory! Quantum electrodynamics, however, has nothing to say about nuclear forces.

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