Professor M Pepper FRS on "The Catt Question"

Sir Michael Pepper


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Sir Michael Pepper was knighted "for services to physics" and edits the leading journal for The Royal Society       Charles Coultas

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From: Professor M. Pepper, FRS June 21, 1993

Ivor Catt, Esq.,
121 Westfields,
St Albans

Dear Mr Catt,

As a Trinity physicist the Master suggested that I might provide some comments on the questions raised in your recent letter to him on aspects of electromagnetic theory.

If I understand the position correctly, your question concerns the source of the charge at a metal surface which by responding to the presence of the EM wave ensures that the reflectivity of the metal surface is virtually unity, hence providing waveguide action and related applications.

If I may restate the basis of your question, what is the maximum frequency of radiation which is reflected? It is this parameter rather than light velocity which is important. The solution lies in the maximum frequency response of the electron gas, which is the plasmon frequency w p and is calculated in a straightforward way. If light frequency is greater than w p then the electron gas in the metal can no longer respond and the reflectivity tends to zero. The problem you are posing is that if the wave is guided by the metal then this implies that the charge resides on the metal surface. As the wave travels at light velocity, then charge supplied from outside the system would have to travel at light velocity as well, which is clearly impossible.

The answer is found by considering the nature of conduction in metals. Here we have a lattice of positively charged atoms surrounded by a sea of free electrons which can move in response to an electric field. This response can be very rapid and results in a polarisation of charge at the surface and through the metal. At frequencies greater than w p the electron gas cannot respond which is the reason for the transparency of metals to ultra-violet radiation. However for frequencies used in communications the electron gas can easily respond to the radiation and reflectivity is unity.

If a poor conductor is used instead of a metal, i.e. there are no freely conducting electrons, then there is no polarisation, and as you point out charge cannot enter the system, and there can be no surface field. Consequently reflection of the radiation will not occur at these low frequencies and there is no waveguide action.

I hope that these comments provide a satisfactory explanation.

Yours sincerely,

[signed] M Pepper
cc: Sir Michael Atiyah - Trinity College [Master]
........Mr. A Weir - Trinity College
........Telephone: 01223 337330




August 23, 1993 Dear Raeto West, I write with reference to your letter of August 19. Your description of the process is correct; as a TEM wave advances so charge within the conductor is polarised and the disturbance propagates at right angles to the direction of propagation of the wave .... .... Yours sincerely, M Pepper


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“The point about the Catt Anomaly has, says Ivor, nothing to do with his theory. It is an anomaly between rival textbooks and professors [Pepper and McEwan]. They will answer his polite query in their condescending authoritative manner until they are told that their ‘explanation’ is the exact opposite of that taken by other authors and professors . Then they cannot be induced to communicate with one another to resolve the problem.” – Editorial, Electronics World, August 2003, p3.



Dear Mr Catt

Thank you for your letter of 18 August, to which the Secretary, Dr Williams, has asked me to respond.

Firstly, I should mention that we have had your book reviewed and that the resulting report will be published in the Electronics and Communication Engineering Journal - either in the October or December issue. [Actually oct95.]

The Institution has a responsibility to 'promote the general advancement of electrical science and engineering and their applications and to facilitate the exchange of information and ideas on these subjects to the members of the Institution'. The general view of the experts within the IEE is that the so-called 'Catt anomaly' is not an anomaly at all, and does not, therefore, require discussion or exposition. The favoured explanation aligns with the statement to which you refer, attributed to Professor Pepper, namely that as a TEM wave advances, so charge separation occurs close to the conductor surface effectively giving a transitory current flow at right angles to the direction of wave propagation.

Yours sincerely           [signed]           Professor Philip E Secker                    Deputy Secretary                    IEE      4sep95



Book Review first published in the IEE Journal "Electronics & Communication Engineering Journal October 1995, p218


The flaw here is the assumption that the charges move with the wave. whereas in reality they simply come to the surface as the wave passes, and when it has gone they recede into the conductor. No individual charge moves with the velocity of the wave. The charges come to the surface to help the wave go by and then pass the task to other charges further along the line which are already there and waiting. This is the mechanism of guidance and containement. There is no anomaly.



There are many other items in this book which give cause for concern, for example the false statement that 'The TEM wave has virtually disappeared from today's electromagnetic theory'.

Catt's belief in his own work is clearly sincere, but this reviewer, after lengthy and careful consideration, can find virtually nothing of value in this book.





I don’t understand why Forrest did not make it clear to until today 27 February 2012, that Pepper did write something (but not to me) after 1993. This contradicts Brian Josephson saying by email around 2004 that Pepper now agrees with him, and has become a westerner. – Ivor Catt


From: Forrest Bishop

Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2012 9:48 PM

To: Ivor Catt ; HARRY RICKER ; ;

Cc: ; ;

Subject: Re: nutter

Ivor, Brian,

That reminds me, Pepper did respond again to The Catt Question, in December, 2006, just two weeks before being knighted by Her Majesty for "Service to Science" or some such. That reply was send to Brian Josephson, who then forwarded it to me. In it, Pepper repeats his "Southerner" view, that charge rises up to help the wave pass by, a view that Kiehn mistook as being Catt's (it is a gross violation of Gauss's law). Pepper's message was short and bordered on word salad, with things like the ultraviolet frequency behavior of aluminum and of MOSFETs tossed in. I'll see if I can dig that up. It is similar to, though even further afield from, Kiehn's bringing up waveguides, antenna, disconnected lines, etc. vis a vis the "2nd Catt Question".

I'm thinking this "2nd Catt Question", "How does energy get from (DC) battery to lamp?", is even more powerful than the original Catt Question.


Kiehn or Koein also sent me a private rebuke, but in it he does allude to the fields being the carriers of the energy that travels from battery to lamp:
"I agree with the Step solutions propagating field energy to the load,"-RMK, Feb 25, 2012

Apparently the Step Solution is the Prime Mover in this theory. Kiehn did not say if this accounted for all of the energy or what, and if so, what the function of electric current was supposed to then be. With the "Step Solution Causal" claimed to "govern" reality, perhaps electric current, i, can also be seen as merely a mathematical device, as we assert. (We also assert, contrary to its Believers, that math does not "Govern" reality, nor does reality "Obey" its dicta.)

Forrest Bishop




Since 1993 Sir Michael Pepper has not emitted a single squeak about “The Catt Question”. During that time, he was knighted “for services to Physics”.


23March 2010-03-23

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The Faraday Medal.

First winner, 1922; Oliver Heaviside


2013 winner

Professor Sir Michael Pepper FREng FRS, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University College London, UK, has been awarded the Faraday Medal for pioneering the basic and applied physics of advanced semiconductor structures. Building on his use of devices for investigating electron transport in disordered systems, he pioneered the physics of semiconductor nanostructures introducing techniques now used worldwide in proposed quantum information systems.


 Since 1993 Sir Michael Pepper has not emitted a single squeak about “The Catt Question”. During that time, he was knighted “for services to Physics”.