© Harold Aspden, 1998

Research Note: 3/98: June 6, 1998

I am writing this after reading a Science Briefing item by Nigel Hawkes, Science Editor of the British newspaper: The Times. The article was entitled 'It ain't heavy, it's a proton'. It appeared at p. 16 in the June 1, 1998 issue of that newspaper.

The report declared that "Physicists have trapped a proton and an antiproton and proved that they have the same mass, down to the tenth decimal place. The precision of the measurement is a tour de force in physical measurement."

Apparently, what the researchers, Dr. Gerald Gabrielse and Dr. Anton Khabbaz of Harvard University, did, using facilities in Geneva in Europe, was to trap a single antiproton in a radial electric field and a longitudinal magnetic field so that the antiproton would orbit around an axis and then they added a 'negative hydrogen ion'. This is a normal hydrogen atom, a proton plus an electron, with an additional electron attached. Both particles would then travel in an orbit around that axis subjected to the same electric and magnetic fields.

One, the negative hydrogen ion, would have more mass than the other, amounting to that of two electrons, which means that it would orbit around the axis at a slightly slower rate.

By measuring how fast the two particles raced around the 'trap' in virtually identical circles at 90 million times a second, they were able to conclude, after allowing for the electron masses, that the proton had the same mass as the antiproton, an important fact, given that some physical theories require the two masses to be different.

What I wonder is whether the precision of that measurement allows one to reach a conclusion concerning one of the very basic unresolved questions in science, which is, given that the proton and antiproton do have the same mass, whether the energy of Coulomb interaction as between that proton and its two satellite electrons contribute to the mass of the hydrogen ion.

If the precision of that measurement of the relative masses of the proton and antiproton really does indicate precise equality to within the tenth place of decimals, as is reported, then it certainly must provide the answer to the question just raised. The Coulomb interaction energy of the proton-electron interaction in the hydrogen atom would affect the measurement at the eight decimal place, if it contributes to the mass of the hydrogen atom.

This is an extremely important question in physics and it bears heavily on the validity of Einstein's theory. The reason is that Einstein declared that all energy has mass, whereas there are those in science, including myself and Leon Brillouin, the author of 'Relativity Reexamined', as published by Academic Press, New York in 1970, who think that the Einstein proposition poses questions that need an answer, one being the issue of whether Coulomb interaction energy exhibits the mass property. You see, that energy is not seated in either of the interacting bodies. It exists in their interaction across space. It exists somewhere between them in the aether and, though logic implies that it must move in a translational sense with both bodies, it does not follow that it necessarily will contribute to the effective mass of the combination of the two bodies in an orbital motion.

My belief, as based on the derivation of the E=Mc2 formula 1976b by a method quite independent of the Einstein philosophy, is that only energy vested in the self-action of electric charge can exhibit mass. Hence my interest in knowing the answer to this question, given that the answer must be there in the results of the reported experiment.

Harold Aspden