Journal of Fluid Mechanics

On the ‘wave momentum’ myth

M. E.  Mcintyre a1
a1 Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge

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Controversies over ‘the momentum’ of waves have repeatedly wasted the time of physicists for over half a century. The persistence of the controversies is surprising, since regardless of whether classical or quantum dynamics is used the facts of the matter are simple and unequivocal, are well checked by laboratory experiment, are clearly explained in several published papers, and on the theoretical side can easily be verified by straightforward calculations. They are illustrated here by some simple, classical examples involving acoustic and gravity waves.

(Published Online April 20 2006)