Category Archives: radio

Thought Experiment – Photons up Close

Recently I published a paper on radio frequency photons:  Thought Experiment- Photons at Radio Frequencies in which I described a photon from the time of emission from a radio antenna as it propagated outward until it separated into photons and was later captured by an antenna.   

What I found was that the photon started as a whorl or vortex, if you wish, traveling initially in patterns of counter-rotating fields that eventually became identified as individual photons.  These whorls/vortexes have a specific size (diameter) and energy defined by the frequency of the emission.   A point on the rotating photon describes sinusoidal patterns that fall behind the photon in the classic electromagnetic patterns.   The thought experiment allowed me to calculate the maximum diameter of the photon at 105 mhz to be about 0.9 meters and a visible-light blue photon to have a maximum diameter of 143 nm.

Having learned from that, I decided to do some more thinking about photons in general.  What applies at radio frequencies should also apply to photons of light and higher energies.   It occurs to me that we can learn a lot about photons by experimenting with them at radio frequencies.   We know that radio signals diffract around sharp structures and even exhibit double slit diffraction if passed between sets of tall structures with sharp edges.   I don’t know of any single-photon experiments at radio frequencies but I suspect that the results would be the same; diffraction still occurs in which the photon interferes with itself.  

Having looked at it from a whorl or vortex photon standpoint (as opposed to a wave standpoint), it is easy to imagine a photon nearly 1 meter in diameter passing around both sides of a telephone pole or being pulled around a corner of a building as one edge drags on the sharp edge there.    

The same thing should happen to a red, blue or green photon encountering superfine wires or sharp edges of a razor blade or slit.  

Not having the equipment nor the results of any such experiments at radio frequencies, I’m going to move this into a thought experiment and follow a photon up close, drawing on the earlier radio frequency thought experiment and adding details that agree with what we know about light photons and see where we go.  In this case I’ll consider a 450 nm blue photon.   I mention a blue photon only to help differentiate it from a radio frequency photon in the following discussion.  It doesn’t matter what it is, they should behave the same.

Blue Photon

 by James Tabb  (ripples greatly exaggerated)

A blue photon is emitted when a source (the emitter) such as, for example an electron that changes energy levels from a higher level to a lower one, shedding the excess energy as a photon.     I imagine it like a sudden elastic-like release of energy in which the energy packet moves away instantly to light speed.  If the packet follows Einstein’s equations (see graphic below) for space distortion, then a blue photon is immediately flattened into a disk of 143 nm diameter (see graphic above) because the lengthwise direction shrinks to zero at velocity c.   (This diameter was derived as d = λ/Π from my previous article and depends on the wavelength)

In my description of a radio photon, the energy in the packet is rotating around the perimeter of the packet at c as well as moving away from the emitter at c.   The limit of c in the circular direction also limits the diameter of the packet.

I can picture photons that slosh back and forth left to right or up and down or in elliptical shapes.   All of these shapes and directional sloshing, and rotation are equivalent to various polarization modes – vertical, horizontal, elliptical and circular.   I can also imagine that these shapes/polarizations are created as photons are beaten into these modes while passing though lattices or slits that encourage the photon to go into one mode or the other or to filter out those going in the wrong direction.   I can begin to see that when photons at light wavelengths are thought of as rotating whorls, it becomes easier to think of how this all works.   None of the modes involve back and forth motion because to do so, the portion going backward would never catch up to the forward mode or it would exceed c.   

Now that the photon has been emitted and begins its flight, we are purely in a relativistic mode.  Einsteins equations for space distortion and time dilation tell us that the path in front of the photon shrinks to zero and the time of flight shrinks to zero as well.   This has always raised a troubling problem because we know that some photons take billions of years to fly across the universe and move about 1 nanosecond a foot of travel.  

In order to resolve this problem, I’m now imagining an experiment in which an excellent clock is built into a special photon that starts when the photon is emitted and stops when it arrives. (Good luck reading it, but this is only a thought experiment, so I’m good to go.)  Perhaps the path is a round trip by way of a mirror or some sort of light pipe such that a timer triggered at the start point also stops again when the photon comes back. If the round trip is about 100 feet then you might expect the timer and the photon’s clock to both register about 100 nanoseconds more or less for the trip.

When the experiment is run, the photon’s clock is still zero when it arrives and the other timer does indeed read very close to 100 nanoseconds. The photon seems to have made the trip instantly whereas we measured a definite trip time that turns out to agree with the velocity of c for the photon throughout its trip.  I decided that is the correct outcome based on the time dilation equations of Einstein when using velocity = c. 

So we see that Einstein’s time dilation equation applies to the photon in its reference frame, not ours.  There are nuances here that we should consider for the photon:

(1) Since the distance the photon travels is zero, the time it takes is zero as well.  That is why the photon’s clock does not change.   Therefore, I claim that the space/time jump is instantaneous and therefore the landing point is defined at the moment the photon is created regardless of the distance between the two points.

(2) Since we know that the photon packet cannot go faster than c and by experiment, it does not arrive faster than c, it appears obvious to me that the instantaneous space jump is not completed instantly, only defined and virtually connected.  I visualize that for one brief moment, both ends of the path are (almost) connected; emitter to photon, photon to its destination through a zero length virtual path. The photon does not transfer its energy to the destination at that moment because the path is only a virtual one.

(3) I visualize the photon’s forward path shortened to zero, an effect which has everything forward to it virtually plastered to its nose, like a high powered telescope pulling an image up with infinate zoom capability.   All of space in front of it is distorted into a zero length path looking at a dot, its future landing point.   

(4) The photon immediately moves away from the emitter at light speed. As it does so, the path beside and behind the photon expands to its full length (the distance already traveled, not the total path) with a dot representing the destination and the entire remaining path virtually plastered to its nose.   A zero-length path separates the nose of the photon from the landing point. The path already traveled expands linearly as the photon moves away from the emitter along that path at a velocity of c.

(5) I claim that the photon’s zero-length virtual path is effectively connected all the way through, including all the mediums such as glass, water, vacuum, etc.  However, the photon only experiences the various mediums as the path expands as it moves along.  I make this claim because it explains all of the quantum weird effects that we see described in the literature and thus appears to be verified by experimental results.  My next paper will detail this for the reader.

The landing point only experiences the photon after the entire path is expanded to its full length. In the example, the starting and ending points are 100 feet apart with a mirror in between, but the entire distance between (for the photon) is zero and the time duration (for the photon) is also zero (with maybe a tiny tiny bump when it reverses at the mirror). For one brief instant, the emitter is connected to the photon and the photon to the mirror and back to the timer through two zero-length paths, but it is a virtual connection, not yet actually physically connected.

The mirror and landing point remains virtually attached to the nose of the photon which moves away from the emitter at light speed, c. The photon’s clock does not move and the photon does not age during the trip, but the photon arrives at the timer after 100 nanoseconds (our time) and transfers its energy to the timer’s detector.

(6) I also claim that all the possible paths to the destination are conjoined into one path that is impossibly thin and impossibly narrow, much like a series of plastic light pipes all melted into one path that has been drawn into a single extremely thin fiber.   This is a result of the fact that the distances to every point in the forward path is of zero length, and therefore all the paths are zero distance apart.

In effect the entire path is shrunk to zero length at the time of emission due to a severe warp in space. Zero length implies zero duration for the trip as well, and the photon is in (virtual) contact with the mirror (and also with the finish line) instantly, but the space it is in expands at the rate of c as it moves away from the emitter.

Everything in front of the photon is located as a dot in front of it. It experiences the mirror after 50 nanoseconds of travel time. The reflected photon is still stuck to the finish point as the space behind it expands throughout a second 50 nanosecond time lapse and the finish line timer feels the impact at the correct total 100 nanosecond time while the photons clock never moves.

The major point learned in this thought experiment is that the photon’s path and landing point is perfected at the time it is emitted whether the path is a few inches or a billion light years long due to the relativistic space/time warp. This is a major point in explaining why quantum weirdness is not really weird, as I will discuss later in a followup paper that clarifies the earlier posts on this subject.

Wormhole Concept 

I visualize the photon as entering a sort of wormhole, the difference is that the photon “sees” the entire path through the wormhole but does not crash through to the other side until the wormhole expands to the full length of what I call the “Long Way Around (LWA)” path. Unlike a wormhole, it is not a shortcut as it merely (as I call it) Defines the Path and Destination (DPD).  This concept also applies to any previously described wormhole – see my previous paper, Five Major Problems with Wormholes

Here is the important point: The photon in this wormhole punches through whatever path it takes instantly at the moment of creation and defines the DPD. Every point in the DPD is some measurable LWA distance that is experienced by the photon as the path expands during its transition along the path. The LWA includes any vacuum and non vacuum matter in its path such as glass, water or gas.

So now we have a real basis for explaining why quantum weirdness is not weird at all – it is all a matter of relativity, as I will explain in my followup paper.

Oldtimer

Copyright 2007  – James A. Tabb   (may be reproduced in full with full credits)

Thought Experiment – Photons at radio frequencies

I like to do thought experiments.   Many of them lead to dead ends, but I write most of them down anyway because I’ve found that very often I will go down another thought path and end up crossing an earlier one.  Then things get interesting.  The one below includes a thought experiment that dates to Fri, 25 Sep 1998, and I’ve updated it a little to my more recent thoughts.  If you have an idea, keep it around as it may become useful someday.  This one is mostly useful to describe how thought experiments work for me.

Right now I’m still spending some time with the speed of light and with electromagnetic waves, such as from a radio, since both propagate at the speed we call c.   It is easy to visualize a radio wave as a wave because we have always called it that: radio wave.  Duh…, and something radiating in all directions from an antenna is more of a reminder of waves in a pond after we toss a rock in.  But if photons are discrete and quantized (but sometimes seem to act as waves), how do you visualize a radio wave as a quantizable entity? 

Photons at Radio Frequencies 

If light and radio are both in the same electromagnetic spectrum, just when do you stop quantizing and start waving?  Stop photoning and start rippling?  Can you just get rid of the waving altogether and talk about photons at any frequency?  The object of this thought experiment is to start with a simple radio wave and see if it can be described as a photon eventually.   In other words, find out if all electromagnetic waves are photons and maybe even decide how big they are.   After all, if they can be shown to be photons always, then the quantum weirdness could explain lots of things, including light diffraction and interference at radio and lower frequencies in a different way than as a wave – particles even.  The object is to take a whack at this duality thing physicists are hung up on.

I am visualizing first a rather coherent radio signal (such as from a radio transmitter generating its carrier frequency) from a typical antenna as it expands in a sphere or bubble front.  I’m thinking of the very first cycle after the carrier is turned on, but it could apply to any peak in the signal as it propagates outward.  The leading edge of the bubble (or any individual peak) as I see it, is an equal-strength signal that covers the surface.    I am visualizing on that bubble (on the surface) countless whorls of small fields rotating in opposite directions and in close proximity to each other.   (I’ve just made them up for thought purposes, hoping that they can become photons later.)

For example, pick one of the circular whorls and it is rotating clockwise and all around it on every side are other whorls/fields rotating counterclockwise, all the same size whatever that is.  Adjacent to any of those you pick are small fields rotating clockwise, the pattern being like a polka-dotted balloon with the black dots rotating one way and the white dots rotating the other.   Between these whorls, the fields are moving in the same direction on all sides.    For example, the one on the left is spinning clockwise and the one next to it on the right is spinning counter clockwise.  In between the whorls, the fields are both moving down – same direction.   The same thing applies for the fields above and below, adjacent fields moving in the same direction.  So far, so good.  These whorls are helping each other out as they move along.

Now, I look at the small rotating field and realize that since the bubble is moving at the speed of light, the rotating field, if it had a crayon, cannot draw a line on the bubble at all, or it would be doing so at faster than the speed of light. Therefore, as each point of the rotating field is drawn on the surface of the bubble, it immediately falls behind the bubble and describes a spiral arc in space that, when looked at in profile, from the top and from the side, could be the sinusoidal magnetic field and its companion electric field that we detect as the field passes us. Any following energy such as for a continuous signal would fall into step with the leading bubble, describing subsequent bubbles behind the first one, but in sync. For now, I am still looking at a single cycle and things are looking better for photons.

Thus, I see countless rotating fields dragging behind the bubble, the bubble that represents the front of the beginning of the radio signal.  I visualize that the size of the rotating fields do not change, but are related to the frequency of the carrier, such that the higher the frequency, the faster they rotate and the smaller they are.   The energy is related to the frequency by Planck’s constant as e = hf.   This means the faster they rotate, the greater the energy.  (Whatever energy these whorls have, it is exceedingly small, but there are lots of them.)  

Now, we need to do a little head scratching.  Can we speculate as to the size of the whorls?  I think we can establish the maximum size of each whorl by assuming that if these are actually photons, then the energy contained in each photon is located in a flattened disk due to relativistic effects as in my drawing in “Speed of Light Regulated“.   If it is rotating around the whorl as in our thought experiment, then no part of the rotating photon can exceed the speed of light.  Therefore, the trip around the circumference of the whorl cannot be faster than the speed of light.

We also have decided to go down a particular path of our thought experiment by assuming that the whorl rotates at the same rate as the frequency of the carrier and so makes a single turn in one wavelength, λ.  We know that  λ=c/f  and also that the circumference = Πd =  λ.   or d = λ/Π.  The diameter of the whorl can’t be more than the wavelength divided by pi.  For a blue photon which has a wavelength of 450nm, the diameter would be d= 143 nm which is quite small, about 1/3 of the wavelength.   For a radio wave of 105 mhz the photon can’t be larger than  0.9 meters, about 1 yard, still about 1/3 of the wavelength, but about 630,000 times larger than for a blue photon.  

There is nothing to say that there can’t be billions upon billions of these photons overlapping each other at every point of the bubble.   In fact, there has to be.   Energy is being poured into the antenna and the output is billions upon billions of photons in ever expanding bubbles.  A photon has energy that we can calculate as e = hf, but h is very small, 6.26×10^-34 joules sec.   For a blue photon this is e = 4.2×10^-14 joules and for a 105mhz photon, e = 6.3 x 10^-28 joules, which is much much smaller.   To put this into perspective it would take 5400 x 10^27 photons (105mh photons) to make one watt-hour of energy.    That’s 5400 billion billion billion photons (roughly) for each watt hour! 

As our bubble expands, the surface “stretches,”  and it is that stretching, as the surface field in dynamically expanding, that causes the field to eventually separate into individual photons as the signal strength falls over huge distances and the wave identity is forever lost – all we have left is photons to try to detect.  The whorls represent in my visualization, the photon/particle aspect of the wave, as the wave is separated into compact quantum induced by the need to tightly spin along the bubble front, each whorl being my visualization of the photon.  

As the field further expands, the various quantum (whorls) begin to separate and the interaction with its neighbors becomes less distinct. Each quantum continues to have the same energy but its neighbors contribute less and less to its effect when exposed to a detector, unless lenses or antennas are used.

If we look at the field as it arrives at a detector (say an antenna), we detect the arrival of the photons as energy buildup on the antenna from one of the peaks involving billions of photons of the carrier followed by a decrease in signal and then a rise to the next peak.  The photon, being on the same order of magnitude as the detecting antenna (by design of the antenna based on electromagnetic theory, not photon theory) is easily captured, but billions upon billions need to arrive in order to make a good signal.   Maybe this dualality of wave / particle can be moved to quantum only – particles.

Enough is enough.  The thought experiment has run its course and it is time to have someone else pick it apart or perhaps add to it.  Well…. after all, it is just a thought experiment, but it’s mine and I’ve now written it down for others to consider or pick at – which should be an easy task.  

Oldtimer