Minkowski momentum resulting from a vacuum-medium mapping procedure, and a brief review of Minkowski momentum experiments
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionAnnals of Physics. 2017, 377 10-21. 10.1016/j.aop.2017.01.009
A discussion is given on the interpretation and physical importance of the Minkowski momentum in macroscopic electrodynamics (essential for the Abraham–Minkowski problem). We focus on the following two facets: (1) Adopting a simple dielectric model where the refractive index n is constant, we demonstrate by means of a mapping procedure how the electromagnetic field in a medium can be mapped into a corresponding field in vacuum. This mapping was presented many years ago (Brevik and Lautrup, 1970), but is apparently not well known. A characteristic property of this procedure is that it shows how naturally the Minkowski energy–momentum tensor fits into the canonical formalism. Especially the spacelike character of the electromagnetic total four-momentum for a radiation field (implying negative electromagnetic energy in some inertial frames), so strikingly demonstrated in the Cherenkov effect, is worth attention. (2) Our second objective is to give a critical analysis of some recent experiments on electromagnetic momentum. Care must here be taken in the interpretations: it is easy to be misled and conclude that an experiment is important for the energy–momentum problem, while what is demonstrated experimentally is merely the action of the Abraham–Minkowski force acting in surface layers or inhomogeneous regions. The Abraham–Minkowski force is common for the two energy–momentum tensors and carries no information about field momentum. As a final item, we propose an experiment that might show the existence of the Abraham force at high frequencies. This would eventually be a welcome optical analogue to the classic low-frequency 1975 Lahoz–Walker experiment.