Exclusive Interview from our Author Matthew A. Morgan

In this interview, we talk to Matthew, author of the book Relativistic Field Theory for Microwave Engineers We discuss the motivation behind writing the book, the target audience, the most useful aspects of the book, the challenges of writing the book, and advice for other engineers who are considering writing a book. 

Matthew A. Morgan is a tenured Scientist and Research Engineer for the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. He received his B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Virginia in 1999 and his M.S. and Ph.D in electrical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in 2001 and 2003. Dr. Morgan is currently the head of the CDL’s Integrated Receiver Development program and is involved in the design and development of low-noise receivers, components, and novel concepts for radio astronomy instrumentation in the centimeter-wave, millimeter-wave, and submillimeter-wave frequency ranges. 

  1. What was your main motivation behind writing your book?

Honestly, this is a book that I have been wanting to write for a long time. I was inspired by something I overheard one of my college professors say when I was an undergraduate student, about the magnetic field being a relativistic correction for the electric field. The statement so intrigued me that I just had to learn more about what he meant. I spent the next twenty years, off and on, studying that question. The deeper I got into the subject, the more I realized what an elegant and beautiful way it is of looking at electromagnetics. It’s a perspective that very few practicing microwave engineers ever have, and I just had to share it with that community.

2. Who is the main target audience for your book and what will they appreciate the most about the book?

For too long, I think, relativity has been a subject that is only ever discussed in detail by theoretical physicists and astronomers. With this book, I really wanted to put relativity into the hands and minds of engineers. We may think that relativity has no practical application, but I find that viewpoint short-sighted. As my professor said, electromagnetics is already fundamentally relativistic, we simply hide that fact behind an outdated mathematical formalism. I think my colleagues in microwave engineering will appreciate seeing their field from the new perspective that a four-dimensional formulation of Maxwell’s equations offers to them.

3. What do you see your book being most useful for?

I strongly believe that progress, perhaps even more strongly in applied engineering than in theoretical science, is dependent on efficient notation and methods of calculation. When Maxwell first published his ground-breaking “dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field,” he used 20 scalar equations to encapsulate his results. That’s way too many for most of us to handle! It wasn’t until later that Willard J. Gibbs and Oliver Heaviside created the vector calculus that reduces the most important relationships to the four equations most of us know as “Maxwell’s Equations” today. Gibbs and Heaviside added nothing fundamental to the theory that wasn’t already described by Maxwell, but I think it is fair to say that the enormous success of modern electronics and telecommunications would not have been achieved without their refinement.

I believe we are poised to make a similar advancement today. By recasting the laws of electromagnetics in four-dimensional spacetime instead of three-dimensional space, we reduce the whole lot to one simple, beautiful equation. I show in this book how to use this elegant form to solve real-world engineering problems more simply, more directly, and with even greater physical intuition and insight than we are taught to do in today’s college engineering courses. Such gains in efficiency can only lead to greater advancements in technology.

4. How did you find the writing of the book? Do you have a specific process or are you quite methodical in your writing approach?

As an author, I think it is important, even for a textbook, that you tell a coherent story, with a logical flow of ideas from beginning to end. It’s not just a collection of chapters, but a progression from a general foundation to specific conclusions. So I always begin my books with an outline, listing in broad terms what I want to achieve with each chapter. Nevertheless, I invariably come to a point where some new discovery or inspiration takes hold and I have to make a change. It’s the natural consequence of thinking through and researching a subject in the level of detail required to write a book about it.

This book was no different, and in fact out of all the books that I have written, I think this one least resembles the book I planned to write when I started it. I was already well into the writing process when I came across the work of a colleague that first exposed me to the mathematical language which became the focus of this book. The result was so elegant, however, that the book was finished in record time for me, despite the fundamental change in direction that occurred along the way!

5. What challenges did you face when writing the book and how did you overcome them?

The main challenge for me was figuring out how to describe geometrical concepts in higher dimensions, and guiding the reader in developing that intuitive sense which is so valuable for this work. I spent a lot of time trying to make my descriptions and especially my figures as clean and descriptive as they can be.

6. What advice would you give to other engineers who are considering writing a book?

Write about what you are passionate about, and allow yourself to learn new things along the way! Writing a book is one of the best ways to deepen your own understanding of a subject which you may already know fairly well, because having to describe those concepts to others forces you to see it from different perspectives.

7. What are you working on next?

I’m so glad you asked! My current project is actually a kind of follow-up to this one. Whereas this book deals with electromagnetics under special relativity, where all reference frames are inertial and spacetime is four-dimensional but still flat, I am now working on electromagnetics under general relativity, where spacetime is distorted and curved as a result of the energy density that inhabits it (including electromagnetic energy). My emphasis will be on gravitational waves, as my target audience of microwave engineers will be most able to see the potential of wave propagation, and draw analogies between gravity waves and what they already know of electromagnetic waves.

Learn more about the book on our websites

ARTECH HOUSE USA : Relativistic Field Theory for Microwave Engineers

ARTECH HOUSE U.K.: Relativistic Field Theory for Microwave Engineers

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