Unification of force and substance

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7 Scopus citations


Maxwell's mature presentation of his equations emphasized the unity of electromagnetism and mechanics, subsuming both as 'dynamical systems'. That intuition of unity has proved both fruitful, as a source of pregnant concepts, and broadly inspiring. A deep aspect of Maxwell's work is its use of redundant potentials, and the associated requirement of gauge symmetry. Those concepts have become central to our present understanding of fundamental physics, but they can appear to be rather formal and esoteric. Here I discuss two things: the physical significance of gauge invariance, in broad terms; and some tantalizing prospects for further unification, building on that concept, that are visible on the horizon today. If those prospects are realized, Maxwell's vision of the unity of field and substance will be brought to a new level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20150257
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2075
StatePublished - Aug 28 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Gauge invariance
  • Magnetic monopole
  • Supersymmetry
  • Unification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • General Engineering
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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