Category Archives: science

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)

Five Major Problems with Wormholes

Five Major Problems with Wormholes 

Wormholes are supposed to be shortcuts from one time and place to another time and place.   For example, drive your spaceship into one end and exit near some other star, perhaps 1000 light years away.   Drive back through and return to earth.  Simple enough.

  

 Wormhole drawing from Wikipedia

If a wormhole is ever created for passage of man or machine by some future civilization, then there will be some major problems to overcome other than the biggie… creating the wormhole in the first place.  I believe this is the first time most, if not all, of these problems have been identified.  

Although the wormhole supposedly bends/warps time and space, there is a fundamental limit to how fast you can get from here to there, no matter how much time and space are warped.   That limit is c and it applies to the Long Way Around (LWA) path length.  First let me tell you why I think so as it is key to the some of the rest of my list of problems.  

A common wormhole is created by every photon that exists.   For example, a photon does a space/time warp from Proxima Centauri (the nearest star to our sun) to our eye.  The distance and time the photon experiences is zero.  It does not age during the trip and the total distance is zero at the moment of creation.   However, it still takes 4.22 years to get here, the time light takes to travel the total distance from that star to ours.     

Einstein’s equations say that the photon traveling at c has a total path length of zero and travel time of zero duration.  I believe that applies to every photon.   However, we know that the photon takes 4.22 light years and travels about 28 trillion miles from that star to our eye as we measure or calculate it.   Even though the path the photon sees is zero length and the time it ages is zero time during the trip, it still does not arrive until the entire 4.22 light years elapses.  

It is my theory that this is because the space/time warp of our photon wormhole connects the emission point on Proxima Centauri and the landing point in our eye only in a virtual sense and only in the first instant of its creation.   

After that first instance, the photon moves away from the emitter at light speed and the path behind it expands as the photon travels along it at c.   The photon’s path to our eye always remains zero length, but it traverses the path at c, leaving an expanded path behind until the entire path is traversed.   The photon never transfers its energy until the entire path is completed at the maximum velocity of c.   

My first wormhole problem is that the time required is no less than the long way around travel time at c.   Anything entering the wormhole is imposibly close to the other end (as for our photon example), but cannot actually get there until the path from the entry point expands behind the object moving at c throughout the entire trip, the LWA, just as it does for the photon wormhole.  

Even if the wormhole spans a time/space warp of 1000 light years, it will still take no less than 1000 years to get from here to there even if the wormhole appears to be of zero length.   The crew of the space ship that manages to get into a wormhole would not age during the trip, a distinct advantage for the crew and the ship’s lifetime.  It would seem to be instantaneous and if it were indeed reversible, then the return trip would be just as fast.  Drive into one end and return immediately and likely not be but a few hours older.   However any companions that were left behind on earth would be dead nearly 2000 years.   All this assumes the problems that follow can be solved.

The second problem is that a wormhole cannot be established before it is created at each end.  If  one end is created today and the other is somehow created on a distant star, the wormhole would not be operable until the second wormhole is created, presumably at least the normal space ship travel time from one construction site to the other, even if the construction crew travels at c.    Unless the wormhole acts like a reversible time machine, a much more difficult arrangement, it will take the same amount of time each way through the wormhole with the arrow of time aging both ways and it cannot begin to be used as a shortcut until both ends are finished.    It would take a very patient civilization to plan for such a feat.

My third problem involves getting into any wormhole that moves you along at light speed.  The nose of the ship would presumably be accelerated to light speed even before the crew compartment made it into the opening.   The result would be powdered spaceship and crew with photons leading the way, larger particles and atoms dragging behind, but no survivors or anything recognizable.  

The fourth problem is getting out of the wormhole.  Let’s say somehow you can get your space ship in and up to speed.   Everything going out the other end arrives there at light speed.   A huge blast of various rays and light burping out the other end, frying anything loitering near the exit.  A great light show, but hardly useful for the crew wanting to get from here to there in a hurry, or their greeting party for that matter.  The wormhole turns out to be a great ray gun! 

My fifth problem involves reversibility.  We assume that entering the wormhole at either end establishes the direction of travel.  However, it appears to me that it is very likely that the arrow of time exists only in the direction of the creation of the wormholes.  That is, from the first wormhole to the second.  Items entering the first one created would be moving in an arrow of time from the earliest time to the latest.   Items trying to enter the second wormhole to come back would be rejected in a smoldering heap or blast of rays.   If that logic is reversed, the problem still exists:  One way only!

Arrow of Time Established? 

I believe this applies to photons and particles in general.  The equations for physics always seem to allow collisions to be reversable and there are no laws that would not allow any set of particle interactions to be reversible.   However, it is my opinion that photons are not reversible for the reasons listed above.  They are zipping through non reversible wormholes.   Energy is transferred from point of creation to some other point where it is absorbed or transferred to another particle and can’t go back though the wormhole as it is a one way street, from first end created to the second end and never the other way around.  That means the arrow of time always moves forward and is never reverseable.  It can be stopped but never reversed.

SuperLumal Transmission?

As a side note, for the reasons listed in the problems listed above, there will be no speedup of communications through a wormhole.  No superlumal transmissions, no advantage over sending it across space the normal way, and very likely, no two way communications.   I hope these revelations do not stop any projects in progress as science will advance no matter what.  8>)  Photon wormholes are the best anyone will be able to do.

Oldtimer

PS – check out my earlier wormhole article

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

 

 

Black Holes and Density

 A question asked of me by klcrace earlier inspired this article. 

Black Holes and Density.

Here is a good source of information on black holes:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_hole

Our atoms are mostly empty space, lots of room for things to fit into. Normally, the fields/forces around atoms keep them relatively far apart and the spaces in between remain mostly empty.  All mass have gravitational effects on surrounding masses and the more mass the higher those effects, but as long as the density remains below a certain point there is no black hole. It is not so much the mass that makes a black hole but the density – mass in a tiny space.

As a star gains mass, it’s outer mass compresses the inner material but the internal pressure keeps the atoms apart and the interior spaces empty. When a star grows too much or its internal pressure decreases because its fuel is depleted, it can collapse and when the density reaches a certain point, it technically becomes a “black hole”, one in which the gravitational pull is too great for light to escape. This is often accomplished by a stellar explosion that implodes the mass toward the center of the star, greatly increasing its density.

The mass is still the same but it is concentrated in such a small space (essentially zero space) that the density is enormous (essentially infinite), and the space around it is so severely warped that light does not get out. The density is self sustaining because the gravity of the masses within it is high enough to keep it together, except after much evaporation.

It is thought that much smaller masses can also be compressed by outside forces to the point that the small mass achieves black hole density, but none are known to exist. It would take enormous energy to accomplish this.

For example if you were able to compress a baseball enough, it would become a micro black hole. But it would have to be compressed so much that its outer radius would be essentially zero (much smaller than an atom).  The mass would still be that of a baseball, but the density would be so high that light could not get away from it. Space would be severely warped around this very tiny black hole, but only very very near its center, probably too small to be detected.  Gravity from such a source at the distance you would normally pick up the ball would be no more than for a regular baseball because the mass is still a baseball mass. If you could weigh it, (a real problem) it would weigh the same. It is the ratio of the mass to the radius that is important. Make the mass high enough and/or compress to an extremely small radius and you have a black hole.

Known and predicted black holes contain mass greater than our sun. Sometimes thousands and even billions of times greater. Yet the size of the space occupied by the mass in the black hole is still essentially zero. The gravity around such large masses is extremely high and will capture all light out to a certain radius, the event horizon. The event horizon can be far from the central mass depending on the amount of mass. The capture range is usually further out than the size of the central mass, and grows as the black hole captures more and more mass while the central region does not grow measurably, if at all.

Black holes can evaporate and if there is no nearby mass that it can capture to replenish itself with, a black hole could evaporate to a smaller mass than what was required to establish it. Smaller in mass than our own sun.

Black holes do typically have very high gravitational pulls, proportional to the mass inside and inversely to the distance to the center.  But a micro black hole could theoretically be floating around a lab that created it (such as with a high energy accelerator) and never be noticed as it would likely evaporate before it hit anything and even if it did encounter a part of the lab, it would be so tiny and have such small gravitational pull at atomic-size distances that it would not capture more “stuff” needed to grow. Likely it would just poof out of existence unnoticed.

At least I hope so.

What I want to emphasize it that any given mass has a certain gravitational pull at any given distance, black hole or not. Super-massive black holes at say 1000 light years away have the same gravitational effects as that of a group of stars of the same total mass that are close together (but not close enough to be a black hole) at the same 1000 light year distance. The difference is the black hole has much higher concentration of mass, occupies much less volume, and also warps space much more tightly than the group of stars with the same mass. The stars shine brightly and the black hole is, …well, black.

Oldtimer

Location or Momentum

Space Guy

Bruster Rockit: Space Guy!                           by Tim Rickard

A key element of quantum mechanics is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which forbids the simultaneous measurement of the position and momentum of a particle along the same direction, as so aptly illustrated by Tim Rickard above. 

E = c \, p \!  for a photon, where E is the energy, c is the speed of light and p is the momentum.    So the momentum of a photon is equivalent to the energy of the photon divided by the speed of light or p =  E/c  where E is also related to the frequency of the photon by Planck’s Constant E = hf.   h is Planck’s constant and f is the frequency assigned to the photon.   f is also related to the wavelength of the photon by f = c/λ.  

So E = hc/λ = cp       Therefore    p = h/λ

But we know the values for both h (6.26×10^-34 joules sec.) and for λ if we know the color of the photon.  Usually if we are dealing with coherent light (red laser for example) then we know the wavelength λ very accurately.   Thus we know the momentum very accurately.

There is another factor in this equation – spin angular momentum of the photon which is independent of its frequency.  Spin angular momentum is essentially circular polarization for a photon.  Angular momentum is ±h/2π.   It is the helical momentum of the photon along its flight path.   In order to pin down the momentum we also need to know its angular momentum, but it is a constant that is either spinning one way or the other, no half spins no quarter spins just +h/2π or -h/2π.   

The key for this discussion is that we know the momentum for any photon if we know its wavelength.   p = h/λ and the direction of its spin ±h/2π.   According to Heisenberg’s principle we cannot know the location of the photon if we know its momentum.  Since we do know its momentum we are at a loss to try to pin the location to a particular spot such as through a narrow slot or pinhole.  

Whenever we try to fit a photon through a slot, we are trying to pin down the location as it goes through the slot.  The narrower we make the slot the closer we are trying to pin it down.   Nature resists by causing havoc with our measurements – fuzzy behavior/weird effects.

Pair Production

Pair production is a possible way for nature to slip one by us – putting a photon through both slots simultaneously, thus confounding our measurements completely.   When a photon hits an obstacle such as the thin barrier between the two slots, it melds through the slots around the barrier as in my earlier posts or possibly down-converts to a lower frequency pair of photons (or up-converts to a higher frequency) through pair production (conserving energy by the frequency change).  These pairs recombine on the far side of the barrier through an up (or down) conversion process causing an effective interference due to jiggling in the conversion process. 

Our barrier strip knocks the photon silly, and it responds by splitting up, zipping through the two slits independently, then recombining in a way that looks like interference.

Virtual Photons 

Another type of pair production would be through creation of a virtual photon – a pair with one real and one virtual as also mentioned in an earlier post.   The scenario is the same – barrier knocks photon silly, virtual photon forms, passes through other side, then effectively recombines while interfering with the “real” one.   The original and virtual photons could actually be down converted or up converted photon pairs that recombine by up or down conversion causing interference-like behavior.

In either case, blocking one slit or the other would prevent melding and also prevent pair production as well as the formation of virtual photons.

Pair production through down/up conversion and/or virtual pairs would fit better with particles with mass acting like waves that cause interference when passed through slits.  Even bucky balls and cats could potentially form virtual pairs if moving close to the speed of light.   Well, again, maybe not cats.

 Oldtimer

Virtual Particles – A new look at double slit weirdness

I was looking at a web site by Hitachi Global concerning “Advanced Research – Electron phase microscopy” today.   They have a neat movie based on the diagram of an electron microscope which you can find here:

(link to diagram)     http://www.hitachi.com/rd/research/em/doubleslit-f1.html

 These pictures are theirs and are copyrighted by them so all that can be done is show you the link.

Here is a link to their video of the results of a 30 minute run (sped up to just a minute or two):

http://www.hqrd.hitachi.co.jp/rd/moviee/doubleslite-n.wmv

They send electrons one at a time from the source, about 10 per second.  Those that make it around the rod are detected and displayed on a monitor.  

 After about 20 minutes, clear interference patterns develop on the monitor as shown in their video.   

The electrons are accelerated through 50,000 volts, and achieve velocities about 40% of the speed of light.

 These electrons appear to be passing simultaneously around the barrier and interfering with themselves.  Either that or they have some sort of lingering effect due to ctime as I posted in a recent article.   I have a new thought:

Virtual Particles

I believe that there is one obvious answer to such a weird quantum effect – virtual particles.   Photons and any particle achieving significant relativistic effects, such as high speed electrons, atoms, molecules, bucky balls, cats, and anything that can be raised to near the speed of light can also produce companion virtual particles – virtual photons, electrons, etc. when their flight paths are significantly disturbed.  (Well maybe not cats, but who knows?)   

We are getting into new theory here with a new thought experiment!   If an electron such as those in an electron microscope is accelerated to a high enough speed is then jostled by close encounter with a small barrier, it will generate an identical virtual electron on the other side of the barrier.  This applies to any particle raised to relativistic speeds.  If the other side of the barrier is closed off by a detector, then the virtual particle disappears without effect on either the detector or the original electron, being absorbed by the barrier along with the original electron.  If the barrier is open, however, it recombines with the electron after passing around the barrier to produce an interference with itself during the recombination process.

It is similar in effect to the process described in my Quantum Weirdness – Part 2 Double Slit Weirdness post whereby the photon melds around a slit.  Perhaps it is not a meld but a virtual photon recombination – the effect would be the same.

A photon, or any relativistic electron, or other particle jostled by the fields around atoms in a close encounter with the edges of a slit or other barrier would generate a virtual photon, electron or particle that would appear on the other side of the offending barrier and then recombine at a point downstream to cause an interference.   Barriers that block the other side would kill the virtual particle.   A particle that did not exist long enough to recombine with its generating particle would die without causing any effect on the offending detector or barrier.    Only particles that come close enough to be jostled by the fields of the barrier atoms would generate virtual particles on the other side.  Others not close enough to the barrier to be jostled by it would not create the virtual particles.

It is my thought that where there is such jostling, both the particle and its virtual particle might die in the edge of  the barrier if one or the other side were not open, and only those electrons that are far enough from the barrier to not create a virtual pair would continue through the open port to the screen, and thus not show any interference pattern.   

Only if both sides are open would a virtual pair survive a close encounter with a barrier and then be attracted together to recombine on a path toward a pattern maximum.   Scattering around the maximum would be a result of random spacing of near misses and pure chance.

It is another thought that if an electron is buffeted by a barrier and survives the trip but its virtual electron is lost in the material of the barrier, the electron that survives will still be affected by the virtual particle at the point of its destruction, perhaps its phase or displacement or both.   It just won’t show an interference pattern, but it would show some effect of the structure of the barrier material at the point the virtual particle is destroyed, making it possible to “see” the structure of the material within the barrier itself.  Maybe that is just a description of how an electron phase microscope actually works.  The phase is changed by the destruction of the virtual electron and that change depends on the structure at the point the virtual electron lands. 

Copyright 2007,

James A. Tabb

Marietta, Georgia

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

Speed of light regulated

Speed of light regulated

What determines the speed of light? We know that it is a limiting factor for all physical objects. We have heard it time and again – nothing goes faster than c! Nothing.   Can we determine why it is regulated to c?  I think we can.  It is all a matter of relativity.

Photon in FligthSuppose we consider the idea that the photon is disk-shaped due to space distortion.  (See figure at left) The photon is traveling at the speed of light and the space distortion equations tell us that, from our perspective, the photon’s dimensions in the direction of travel are greatly shortened, essentially like a very thin pancake set perpendicular to the direction of travel.

We know that the photon is a ball of energy related to its frequency and we know that the frequency determines the color of light that we can actually detect with our eyes. A blue photon has both a higher frequency and energy than a red photon. All the energy is confined to that flat pancake moving along at the speed of light, c.

Now we come to a slight separation from the earlier argument that the clock of the photon is stopped and nothing wiggles in a photon with a stopped clock. That is, in my opinion, true for the photon, but we are talking about the photon here from an observer’s point of view, not the photon’s perspective.  From the observer’s point of view, the photon moves with measurable velocity, measurable frequency, measurable energy, and thus potentially real live vibrational modes as seen by a clever observer. The time experienced by the photon is still zero from start to finish of its journey, but the observer still knows it is moving at a particular pace and also vibrating as it goes.

The photon cannot vibrate in the front to back direction because to do so implies that the vibration mode that goes toward the back lags behind and then it could never catch up without exceeding the speed of light. This implies that the photon vibrates from side to side or possibly either way around the rim of the disk and never front to back (well, maybe a very little, as explained later). The ripples in the disk are shown greatly magnified in the figure of the photon in flight above. Vertically polarized photons vibrate from rim to rim in a vertical fashion, horizontally polarized vibrate side-to-side and circular polarized photons vibrate around the rim, to and fro, and can even be lopsided a little producing an elliptical polarization.  These types of polarization exist in our real world and we can separate photons with various filters. prisims, and crystals.

Now let us suppose that we consider the vibrational modes of the disk in a little more detail. It seems that any vibration would cause at least some ripples along the disk, and that these ripples must involve at least some bunching of energy producing some motion front to back. Suppose these ripples are constrained to some minimum amplitude in order to even exist.  Could it be that these ripples actually limit the speed of the photon to some factor that actually defines c?   They can.

In other words, if the speed of the photon were to try to increase beyond the speed of light, as seen by our (any) frame of reference, the continuing shortening of the disk would reduce the amplitude of the ripples and potentially slow the photon back down to a speed where the ripples can still exist in our frame of reference. This provides a theory of how the speed of light is established and limited to a particular speed, “the speed of light”, for a photon. The speed of light is about 299,792,458 meters per second, usually symbolized by the letter “c”.

My thought is that when a photon or other particle is emitted, it probably takes off at the highest possible speed that is limited by the speed at which it can still maintain vibrational modes that can exist within an observer’s frame of reference. This is the speed of light as we know it and the regulator is the relativistic shortening of the disk in the direction of travel as seen by the observer. This shortening reduces the amplitude to a point that is sustainable for the energy it contains. If a photon can vibrate longitudinally, it would still be limited in amplitude to the size constrained by the disk in the same way described above, essentially very little, and regulated by the speed. The photon will always go at the maximum speed it can maintain (and no faster) within a given frame of reference. 

Why photons all travel at the same speed 

So why do all photons travel at the same speed?  Even for two observers traveling in differnt directions both measuring the same speed for a photon crusing by?  First lets consider some facts:  Blue light has a frequency, f, entered on 7.88×10^14 HZ and a corresponding energy e of 5.22 10^ -19 Joules. Red light has a frequency centered on 3.79×10^14 HZ and a corresponding energy e of 2.373 x 10^-19 Joules. Since they have different energies and different frequencies, would they not reach that equilibrium at different speeds?

For the answer, consider this:  The energy and frequency of all photons are related to a simple constant, e= hf.   Where h= Planck’s constant= 6.6262*10 ^-34 J s (Joule second).  So the relationship of the energy of photon to its frequency is a constant.

Or put another way, h = e/f for all photons. The ratio of the energy of a photon to its frequency is a constant for all photons. Thus we can see that the sustainable amplitude is somehow related to h and all photons are regulated to the same speed, which we measure as c in any frame of reference.   For example, if you divide the frequency into the energy for the blue and then the red light photons above, the ratio comes out the same.   The result is h, a constant for all photons.   These relationships are well known in the physics world.

However, the frame of reference is a key element, which means that the regulation to c takes place in any frame of reference because the shortening of the disk is related to the speed within the reference of the observer (any observer and all observers), and thus become regulated to c in all frames of reference. If the frame of reference were within a spaceship traveling at near relativistic speed and attempting to measure the speed of a photon going in its direction, the photon’s speed would still be c in respect to the spaceship. The length contraction relative to the spaceship would just be enough to regulate the speed of light measured by the spaceship to agree with the speed observed on earth.

There is a little of cart before the horse-trading going on here. The equations for space distortion and for time dilation both involve the square root of a term that would be a negative number if the photon exceeded the speed of light. In order for us to consider that the photon might even try to go faster than the speed of light, the equation would need some modification to make things right. It might well be that in order for the photon to reach c it might initially slip into “superluminal” speed, but it would quickly be brought back to within the speed bounds by the disk shortening along the path of flight and the reduction of the amplitude of the energy waves in the disk, the shortening taking place in the frame of reference of the measurer/observer.  Even when there are no observers and no measurement taking place, the photon is not alone.  Other particle exist, even in a vaccum, virtual particles for example.  These make up a frame of reference too, so the photon is always locked in to c. 

All photons strive to go faster than c all the time, but are held back by the relativistic effect of space shortening’s effect on the need to vibrate.

This latter discussion begs a new question. If the vibrational modes could somehow be frozen so that they do not need to vibrate in flight as we observe them, could they then travel at an unregulated speed beyond the speed of light? Consider a particle that starts out at absolute zero. In that case all the parts are locked together and nothing moves and therefore has no vibration to sustain. What is to regulate the speed of that particle? Can we then reach superluminal speeds for such a particle?  I don’t think so because to get it up to speed, energy must be applied.  In the case of a photon, the energy comes from the change in states of an electron around an atom or a collision of some sort that generates a photon.  Once we have energy for a massless particle, it has to cruise along at c.

It may be possible that a photon in flight passing thorough from another dimension/universe might have motion relative to us moving so fast that there is no effective vibration taking place during the time of its passage, effectively frozen during its passage.   Such a particle might zip by at superlumal speed.  Of course we would never know it passed unless it hit something on the way.  Then we would have a mess.  

Physicists call hypothetical particles that travel at superlumal speeds tachyons, (hypothetical so far, that is).

There is one other consideration that acts as a speed regulator.  Something I hinted at above.   c is the speed at which the time and distance experienced by a photon reduces to zero.  I stated that a photon always strives to go faster than c.   Each time it does, it slips into imaginary time and pops back to c, and has to stay there.   Look at it another way.  The photon traveling at c arrives the instant it leaves (from the photon’s perspective).  If it went any faster than c, would it arrive before it left?  I don’t think so and so the photon cannot go any faster.

Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about.  

Oldtimer

Article and drawing, Copyright 2006, 2007,

James A. Tabb