Category Archives: speed of light

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
 

Time Zero – A real Place?

“Time Zero – Ctime”

I would like to discuss a few other things about photons and also very high speed particles and their implications for a special point in time.  Some of these are just thought experiments and may have no basis for a new theory, but some of you may find it interesting at least and perhaps there is some promise of truth in them.

Since the photon experiences zero time during flight, it would be nice to know what is actually going on within the photon during the possibly billions of years of its flight. We know that near the speed of light, time slows dramatically and that a spacewoman in a space ship at near light speed would experience time as if it passes normally, but a stationary observer would see things quite differently. A clock on the wall continues to tick off regular seconds to her while her brother on earth gets older at a much faster rate, all the while knowing that her clock is going very slowly and she is staying young as he grows old.

But a photon is going much faster than a space ship ever can. The entire time of flight is reduced to zero so nothing can happen within the photon during flight.  The flight ends as soon as it begins for the photon. Yet we know there is a finite flight time from our observer perspective, sometimes billions of years for flight, as we see the same photon.

An interesting point is that the photon is capable of living forever because it cannot age if time is stopped, and in cloud chamber experiments we can measure the lifetime of some collision reactions only because the time of reaction is slowed for a high-speed particle due to time dilation. Time dilation near or at c is a real thing.

Yet we know that there is a finite and measurable time of flight from there to here from our perspective, and that a photon, if it has a frequency associated with it should vibrate hundreds of times during each foot of travel.  That is, if we believe it is still vibrating and not frozen as well. When it lands we know that its frequency is related to its energy and thus its color.  Does the photon actually experience this vibration, or does it all occur only when it starts and again when it encounters an obstacle that slows it down (such as within a crystal, or passage through water), or when it changes direction such as during a bounce off of a mirror… or does it occur again only at the moment of destruction, or as it melds around a small object?

We know that the emission of a photon is related to the change in energy states of an electron and both the energy and the frequency of the photon are related to that change of state. So the frequency is a physical attribute of the photon. We aren’t certain what exactly is going on since there are the contradictory facts that the clock of a photon does not change during flight, yet significant time elapses externally, and a photon has vibrational modes.  We also know that the phase doesn’t change, so the implication there is that no vibration actually takes place.  Is something else going on?

Ctime

Here is a new thought. If the time experienced by a photon is zero, where is the photon during the time of its flight? Is there such a time (physicists call it null time) and is it possibly a real place, a relativistic time zero?  Let me call it “ctime” for simplicity, time at speed c.  Ctime would then be where the photon is during flight, a place where time is stopped. Nothing happens, nothing moves, at least not within the photon. The photon moves through space, and doesn’t even vibrate, but the photon experiences nothing because it is embedded in ctime.

Now, suppose all ctimes are the same!  A special point located in relativistic time.    Not the same space-time, but the same time-space, a special place where time is stopped due to relativity, all connected by the null paths.  Photons that have paths that don’t cross would still be in the same place in time – ctime – throughout their flight, but would not ever occupy the same space.  

Photons that have paths that do cross would occupy the same space and same time at the crossing point even if they crossed several decades apart because both would be in ctime and both pass through the same space at some point. The physical times we calculate at the crossing (different) would not be the same as the ctime the photons would experience (same).  Ctime would exist for the photon throughout its existence and even afterward, at least until the null path was disturbed by another photon crossing the same null path.    I say that because the time is frozen and doesn’t change and therefore any point in the null path that is not disturbed remains undisturbed even if the last point of that path is a screen or detector or a piece of rock or someone’s eye.  How can the previous points know if time does not change for those points all stuck in ctime?

Would such photons interfere with each other? In other words, is it possible for a photon that passes through a slit today to actually interfere with another photon that comes through tomorrow?  They would both pass through the same space at the same time in timespace – ctime.  I think it is theoretically possible and thus becomes an alternate way to explain some quantum weirdness effects.  Certainly, it seems more possible than multiple universes.  When does the ctime collapse for a photon? If it is a real place in time, does it even know that the photon has ceased to exist?  For interference to occur in a slit due to ctime, it must continue to exist until at least something physical cuts through the spacetime of the path, such as the placement of a detector or the disturbance of another photon trying to occupy the same space and ctime.  Even then if the detector is removed before the second photon comes through, ctime (at the photon crossing point) is undisturbed unless the detector happens to disturb the point that the photon paths cross, normally some point well past the detector placement.

Let’s go over that again, slowly.  A photon is emitted.  It immediately stops all internal activity and is, in effect in suspended animation until it hits something.  For the photon, the distance of the flight path is shortened to zero and time stops.   Space and time are severely warped.  For the photon, the entire trip from a far galaxy is reduced to zero time and zero distance.  Both space and time are reduced to dots.   Space and time are warped that much.

We can conceive of space being zero distance, a dot, and create a very simple drawing with both ends of the path conjoined at a dot on the paper.  But what about time?   If time is reduced to a dot, where is it?   What I’m suggesting is that the time dot is the same place in time for all photons.  That place in time is what I’m calling ctime.    However, the time-space dot occupies the entire length of the flight path and continues to exist there until each point is later disturbed.   A null path consisting of a continuous line of space-ctime, like a deep valley in time that the photon passes through, warped by its speed.  The valley hangs around in time (ctime) even after the particle ceases to exist at every point in space, because time does not change there.

If the paths of two photons cross, but at different times as we measure it,  then the two photons exist in the same space, but not the same time (as we measure it) – different space-times.  Except… it is my suggestion that they do exist at the same time (for the photons) at the same space-ctime, and never come out of it until that particular space at the crossing point is disturbed.   It would be an alternate explanation for the interference of photons that are emitted one at a time over a period of days or weeks.  

The first photon through a given slot occupies a particular space and is also hung up in ctime.   Its presence in ctime for that space exists even after the photon hits the target.   Each point in the path of the photon experiences the photon in passing as a warp in time.  No information is possible for the past or the future of the photon – and so each point is left with a warped time that is frozen there in ctime.   When another photon happens to cross that same space later, the ctimes are also crossed at that same point and thus the newer photon is shaken by the occurrence just as if it had brushed up against the earlier one.   Interference!   If a slot is closed, then the previous photon ctime paths are disturbed by the closing and no interference occurs when a newer photon comes along later. 

This has implications for high-speed particles with mass as well.  As they approach relativistic speeds, there is time and space distortion for these particles as well.  Electrons and even much heavier particles show diffraction patterns and also show interference patterns even when fired one at a time.  In their cases, the valley of ctime would not be as deep and possibly not persist as long, but space and time are warped just the same.  The interference of one particle with another at a later time may be just the same effect - an existence of a ctime in a not-quite null path left by one particle that disturbs one coming along later.  

An experiment might be constructed such that a paddle sweeps through the entire area where photon interference might occur.  The sweeps to occur between each photon emission.  Such an experiment  might prove this theory if the result is no interference pattern buildup over time when the paddle is used but interference does occur when the paddle is not in use.  I’m suggesting a simple paddle that is wide enough to span the multiple interference points and placed normal to the screen, a paddle that mechanically sweeps through and disturbs the ctimes so that no photon crosses another’s undisturbed ctime.  A paddle next to the slits will not do the trick, so I doubt that this experiment has been done before.  A paddle that only sweeps some of the crossing points would in effect blank out some of the interference pattern and not others.   A real test.

Copyright 2007 by James A. Tabb

Marietta, Ga. 
 

What’s Up with Gravity? part 2

In part 1, I talked about fields and field gradients.  I want to expand on that just a little because I believe that it is key to action-at-a-distance and gravitational forces in particular, and I think I can make it a little clearer.

We know that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity tells us that gravity is a result of space-time warping in the presence of a mass, often shown in figures as a membrane with a large body (such as the sun) in the middle, sitting in a depression in the membrane and a smaller body (such as the earth) circling around in a smaller depression in the same membrane.  I mentioned that we humans have a tough time getting our mind around that situation when it comes to our own bodies in the earth’s gravitational field.  When we are standing on firm ground, where is the membrane and what is being warped?

I also mentioned that a mass is surrounded by a field and we can draw a circle or sphere around that mass where the field strength (gravity) is the same at all points on the circle or sphere and additional circles around points further out for smaller and smaller strengths.   The result is a series of shells that stretch out to infinity, or at least as far as light has traveled since that mass was placed in that position.  This is different than the normal depiction of fields as being lines connecting two masses along the lines of force.  I’m convinced that my shell drawing of equal strength points will be easier to understand.

gravity figures 1a and 1b

The figure above illustrates two situations.  Figure 1a shows two masses that are different sizes and also far apart.   The field lines are drawn around each for some easily measurable strengths and the drawing shows only those fields that have sufficient strength to measure on our crude meter.  In fact the fields go on forever in ever-decreasing strength.  If we had a better meter, we could draw lines all the way between them and beyond.

The fields in figure 1a are essentially circles around each mass because the masses are positioned so far apart that we can’t discern any distortion in the circles.

The fields in figure 1b show a situation where the smaller mass has been placed closer to the larger one and overlap the outer two measurement circles of each.   The figure shows that the fields merge.   The outer rings of both masses were the same strength before and still are because we are measuring the field at equal strength at the minimum reading we can take with our poor meter.  

Notice that the outer ring and the one just inside of it have now combined for the two masses and as a result of the added strength moved out a little further, that is, bulged further out on the far side of the small mass.  In addition, the 3d ring of the bigger mass has also bulged a little due to the movement of the others.   It should be clear that the fields in the bulged areas are not stronger, but are the same strength as before, but now our measurements of that strength are further out.

The two masses are now part of one system  and the rings around them are distorted a little at all points as they now form equal fields around the center of gravity of the two masses.  That is not really apparent in my simplified drawings, but the system now acts as a larger mass to other masses (not shown) further out.

Our body is a system of masses that act like the system above but infinitely more complicated as the fields of every molecule of our body interacts with every other and with fields external.  However, we can now visualize our body as being the smaller mass and the earth a similar system of masses much bigger.   When we are on the earth, our mass interacts with and modifies the earth’s field ever so slightly (and the earth ours), but sufficient to feel the effects due to the enormous mass of the earth.

There is still a gradient across the two masses (the fields on each side of it are different sizes), and a tension across the gradient that tends to pull the masses together.  Actually, it is not clear if it is a pull or a push.  Is the larger mass pulling the smaller one or is the enhanced field that has now moved out behind the smaller one now giving it a slight push?  To be complete we have to say the small one is also pulling on the larger one or possibly the field behind the larger one is pushing it toward the smaller one.  Indeed the field behind the larger one has also moved out ever so slightly in the same manner as shown for the smaller one, but not discernable from the drawing.

From the drawing, I’m inclined to say they are being pushed together, in the same manner that a rubber band wrapped around two fingers pushes the fingers together.    

How did the fields get there in the first place?

There is no question that the fields are there.   But is the gravitational field moving at the speed of light outward from the mass?  The short answer to the last part is no.   The fields as I explain them are essentially static.  They are modulated by disturbances within the core of the mass (quarks, gluons flying around) but the field strength is essentially static except as modified by the fields of other masses elsewhere in the universe.  That modulation of the fields goes on constantly in ways we could never compute.   The modulation or changes in the field do move at the speed of light, but the lines drawn around our figure do not change except as other masses move and influence the fields.

The answer to the title question “How did the fields get there in the first place?” is this:  They have been there since the mass was created.   For the atomic scale, we are talking about when the quarks and gluons first condensed out of the big bang expansion and atoms and other particles were formed.   Each atom and each particle that has mass had a field established at that time and it has followed them around ever since.   On a larger scale, as atoms combined into molecules and dirt and other debris combined into lumps and moons, the systems of fields depicted in figure 1b began to grow as well.    Eventually a sun was formed, an earth was formed and we were born into it.  Our masses accumulate and become a smaller system of our own.

Thus we are composed of atoms from the creation and from the deaths of stars which may have flung our larger atoms and their attendant fields out into space to end up as us with enough intelligence to understand a few things about our world, including a little about gravity.

Where does mass come from?

If gravity is a function of mass, where does mass come from?   Actually there is no problem here:  if E = mc^2  then it can be restated as m = E/C^2.   Simply put, mass is a form of infinitely condensed energy.   Release the energy and you have an atomic bomb.   The components of an atom really have very little individual mass among them.  All of the mass is ultimately from the energy within.   The quarks and gluons and other stuff inside are moving about in a wildly speedy fashion, like a whirling dervish.   In effect, gravity is more of a function of energy than any real matter.  

The point of mentioning this is that I believe that the gravity fields that were established at the beginning, shortly after the big bang, are the left-over effects of energy being condensed into matter – huge amounts of energy being squeezed or formed out of the soup of creation during the bang and leaving lonely fields stretching out forever and following that condensed energy wherever it goes.  So what holds us down is essentially the debris of locked up energy condensed when our atoms were created, long before the earth was formed and eventually accumulated into the ground we walk on. 

Copyright 2007 by James A. Tabb

Marietta, Ga. 

  

Does Time Exist?

There is no question that we experience what we call time.   There is a precision with which we can measure the progression of events over time that is phenomenally accurate.   Things age and particles decay over “time” and it is consistent.    However, physical laws that use time as a reference work equally well for time reversal - going backward – a particle hitting another particle, generating other particles and emitting photons will work just as well running backward according to physics.   We just have never experienced time reversal and this disconnect with the laws of physics seems to be a mystery.  This disconnect is used by many to express the opinion that time exists.   However the fact remains that equations of space and time break down at certain points and time falls out of some of them as an unnecessary factor.

Think of this: photons live in “null” time.  They live and die in the same instant because they travel at the speed of light and therefore if time exists for them, they do not experience it.   They experience zero flight time over zero distance no matter how far apart the start and finish line are.  They live in a go-splat world.    A photon leaving a star a billion light years away destroys itself in our eye the instant it is emitted, having not aged even a fraction of a nanosecond in its long trip.   Space and time are that warped!

The space and the time have been warped because of the speed of the photon.  It travels at the speed of light.   Our very definition of speed involves time so when we say the speed of light we assume that time exists, but for the photon time does not exist.  

A photon experiences zero distance and zero time due to its incredible speed.   Every photon that lights our office or illuminates our book arrives the instant it is emitted.  It has not aged even though we can calculate that it moved from the bulb to our book and then to our eye at about one nanosecond per foot of travel.  The photon did not experience the “time” that we measure or calculate.  It aged not at all.  Time does not exist for any particle moving at c.  It only exists for us as calculated or measured in a laboratory.  But does it exist as a real dimension?  Does it have a physical basis?  

A photon in flight between point a and point b is invisible to any and all observers.  It does not exist in flight and can only be detected at b when it actually arrives.   The photon in flight experiences null time – time zero – no time – non-existent time, and travels a null path – or no path at all, regardless of the length of its travel.   Time for the photon does not exist, nor does distance.  Those measurements of time and distance for the photon are for our domain only – the human one.

Now consider an extension of that thought – most of the particles that make up our world vibrate and exchange energy with each other.  That occurs even at temperatures close to zero.   There is also a froth of virtual particles that pop into and out of existence continually at all times even in a so-called perfect vacuum.     All the energy exchanged through photons is timeless because all photons are moving at c.   Even gravity moves at c.  Gravity is also timeless within its self.   The exception is for atoms that bump into each other and exchange energy through vibration and bumping.   Or do they?   Do they actually touch or isn’t there an exchange of particles  moving at c that keep them apart?

If the energy transfer by photons is timeless, the photons are timeless, gravity is timeless all due to the speed of light as experienced by the particles that carry them, then does time exist or are we merely measuring external events by counting uniform progressions that we experience and can see?

I know and acknowledge that we can measure the speed of a photon to a very high precision.  I know that we can measure the speed of gravity as other planets tug on ours and on each other.    The measurement is based on the progression of the components of our clocks.   We do live in a dimension that experiences progression of events in one direction which we call time.  

However, we can measure but we cannot see.  We can observe the effects but not the event.   The truth is that whenever something is traveling at c, simultaneous observations are impossible.  Every observer of the same event sees something different.    Have you ever seen time?  Maybe the change in a clock, which is actually only a measure of repetitive events, whether a wind up (measuring escapement events) or a NBS clock counting cycles of an atomic nature, but not timeWe can’t see time, only experience it.  We can’t measure time, only define it.

Time for us may be just a projection of ourselves on a line defined by a progression of events that occur in a uniform manner, but it may not really exist.    We are bundles of energy made up of atoms and particles in extraordinarily rapid motion.  Take us down to the quantum world and we are made up of many quadrillions of particles exchanging energy among themselves in mostly empty space.    In such huge numbers there is an average motion and an average progression of events that may make up our concept of time.  Certainly our most accurate “clocks” are merely counting cycles of an atomic nature.   Even the National Bureau of Standards admit they are “not measuring time, but only defining it“.

Does time exist just for us because we experience this progression in a uniform manner? Perhaps it is not actually an extra dimension as we have been so often told.

Do you think time exists as a dimension in the same manner as x, y, z?  Is time real?  If you have been following my last two posts, you will understand it is the lack of time, at least on the photon level, that explains quantum weirdness.   And explains it well.

What do you think? 

Oldtimer

PS:  here are some other articles by Oldtimer on the subject of time

Enjoy!

Random Thoughts About Relativity

Facts About Relativity  

In order to introduce some of my ideas, it will be good for the reader to become familiar with some of the weird behavior of particles traveling at very high speed, high enough to invoke relativistic effects.

As seen by a stationary observer:

1) The closer a moving object gets to the speed of light, the slower its moving clock gets.

At the speed of light, it is zero – to the moving object, everything is simultaneous.  Start, Splat. The moving object sees the outside world as distorted, getting shorter in length, and at c, the length from here to there is zero, no matter how far the stationary observer measures it.  Photons live in a go-splat world.

2) The closer a moving object gets to the speed of light, the shorter its length gets.

At the speed of light, it has zero length to the stationary observer, but normal length to the moving object.  Everything seems normal to the moving object  until it gets to c – the problem for the moving object at c is that there is no time to seem normal – everything is instantaneous.

3) The closer a moving object gets to the speed of light, the larger its mass gets due to kinetic energy increase (for objects that have mass).

At the speed of light, an object with mass would have infinite mass.   This rules out object with mass ever getting up to c.  Photons do not have mass so they can move at the speed of light.   Nothing with mass can go that fast.

4) The closer a moving object gets to the speed of light, the more energy you have to use to get it there.

You have to give more and more energy to the object to get it  closer and closer to the speed of light. Energy equals mass times speed of light squared.  At the speed of light, the energy required is infinite.  You can never push an object with mass that hard.

What is the equation that describes the way in which time slows down as you approach the speed of light?

The equation is known as the time dilation equation and is:

Δ t = Δ T/ √[ 1 - (v/c)²]    Time dilation

Where  Δ t is the moving object time ticks and Δ T is the stationary object time ticks, v is the velocity and c is the speed of light.

When the velocity approaches c, the term v/c becomes very close to 1 and then the term Δ t becomes very large because the right side is divided by a very small number approaching zero.  This means that the distance between clock ticks gets very long for the moving object.   Time begins to stand still as it reaches the speed of light because the distance between tics becomes infinite.

What happens to space (in direction of motion)?

Δ x = Δ X/√[ 1 - (v/c)²]      Space distortion

Where  Δ x is the ruler mark as measured by the moving object and Δ X is the ruler mark as measured by the stationary object.

When the velocity approaches c, the right hand term approaches infinity.  essentially, a unit measure, such as an inch for the moving object would stretch millions of miles as measured by the stationary object at speeds near c.  

conversely, a foot long ruler moving near c would be invisibly short as seen by the stationary object – a term called foreshortening

Conversely again, the stationary object would seem impossibly close and impossibly short to the moving object near c.  At c, neither could see the other even with the best of instruments until they collide, which would be instantaneous for the moving object.  (To do so would imply that the image was moving faster than c.)

 So someone (very small and massless) sitting on a photon would think they see time normally, but the time of flight would seem to pass instantly from time started to time finished because no time would elapse (Δt very large).   Of course there would be no time to measure time (or even think about it) because the photon would instantly hit the other end of its path, no matter how far away that is.

Someone sitting and watching nearby would see time normally (from their perspective), but in their case, ΔT would be very short (time interval ticks near 0) and they would seem to age quickly compared to the someone riding on a photon.

The total time of flight might seem 100 years to an observer, but seem instantaneous for one traveling at the speed of a photon. The observer would age instantly according to the one moving fast, and the observer would think the one moving quickly didn’t age at all.   Weird isn’t it?  Weird but true.

Similarly, distance gets shorter as an object approaches c as seen by the observer and longer for the observer as seen by the object that is moving fast.

In other words, the time that passes in one time frame (Δ t) is the time that passes in another (Δ T) divided by the square root of 1 minus the velocity squared divided by the speed of light squared.

Enough of this – keep in mind that photons don’t have time to age, and photons arrive the instant they are emitted.  A photon emitted in the furthest star that we can see by telescope arrives the instant it is emitted.   (From the photon’s point of view).   They live an instantaneous “go-splat” life.

From our point of view it may have taken billions of years to get here.  Both viewpoints are valid.  That is the weird nature of relativistic speeds.  Time and space are distorted. 

One last thing:  Effect of speed on atoms:

Atoms are flattened in the direction of their motion.  Normally about 10 -8 cm in diameter they change from a sphere to a flattened disk as they approach the speed of light (from our stationary perspective only).

Particle accelerators have to be designed to account for both time dilation and space contraction in order to work. 

Atoms have mass so they can never reach the speed of light, but particle accelerators push particles, including atoms, to very high speeds that require design changes to keep them on track around their path – changes that involve the equations above.

Next – some of the quantum weirdness explained, example by example from the earlier posts.

Introduction to Quantum Weirdness

Quantum Weirdness 

Quantum Electrodynamics (QED) theory has developed to be the theory that defines almost all of the understanding of our physical universe.    It is the most successful theory of our time to describe the way microscopic, and at least to some extent, macroscopic things work.

Yet there is experimental evidence that all is not right.  Some weird things happen at the photon and atomic level that have yet to be explained.  QED gives the right answers, but does not clear up the strange behavior – some things are simply left hanging on the marvelous words “Quantum Weirdness”.   A few examples of quantum weirdness include the reflection of light from the surface of thick glass by single photons, dependent on the thickness of the glass; the apparent interference of single photons with themselves through two paths in double slit experiments; the reconstruction of a polarized photon in inverted calcite crystals, among others.

This paper introduces some ideas that may explain some of the weirdness.

I want to introduce the subject in a way that appeals to the non-scientist public, but also introduce some ideas about what is going on, ideas that may explain some of the weirdness and include a few thoughts about the speed of light and relativity that should stimulate thought on the subject.  Hopefully a few physicists will look in and not be too annoyed with my thoughts.   This will not be a mathematical treatment other than some basic equations from Einstein that most of us are already familiar with.   The later chapters will be more theoretical, but easily understood if I do it justice.   I will include some experimental diagrams and discussion of results.

First let’s review a few facts about one of our most commonly known quantum objects.   Light is a quantum object.  When you see the light from a light bulb it is likely you do not realize that the light you see comes in very tiny packets called photons that are arriving in really huge numbers.   Your nearby 100 watt bulb emits around 250 billion billion photons a second!  A photon can travel unchanged completely across our universe from some distant star or across a few feet from a nearby lamp.   Once emitted, it continues until it hits something that stops it.  It lives a go-splat existence.

When we read this page, we are intercepting some of the billions of photons of light bouncing off the page, those that come off at just the right angle to illuminate rods in the back of our eyes.    Physicists tell us that photons are tiny bits of massless energy that travel at the speed of light.   These bits are indivisible; you can’t split them up into smaller pieces.   In transit they are invisible.

Here are some tidbits of information you will need to know later:

Every photon of a particular frequency has the same intensity (energy).     

If you make the light brighter, you are just making more photons, not changing the energy of the individual photons.  If you make the light very dim, only a few photons are being emitted.  Reduce intensity enough and you can adjust the source to emit one photon at a time, even minutes or hours apart.

The energy and frequency of blue light is higher than that of red light

The energy of each photon is dependent on the frequency of the light but not dependent on the intensity.   A brighter (more intense) light of a particular color is the result of more photons per second, not higher energy in the photons. 

Maybe I can illustrate some of the above this way.  Bird shot is a very small pellet load for a shotgun.  It is small and used for hunting birds.    If you drop a single bird shot pellet from a porch onto a pie pan below, it would make a small sound when it hit.  It would have a certain energy when it hit and every pellet of that size dropped from the same height would have the same energy.  The sound each makes at impact would have the same intensity.  If you dropped a hundred at a time, the energy of each pellet would be the same, but the combined impact and sound intensity would be much higher and louder.  Similarly all red photons hit your eyes with the same energy.  If you step up the current to the light source, the number that hits your eyes goes up accordingly, so you see a higher brightness as the number hitting the rods in your eye each moment is increased.  

Changing from a red photon (light) to a blue one is somewhat like changing from bird shot to buck shot, a much larger pellet.  The blue photon hits harder, as does the buck shot, no matter where it comes from.   

Regardless of color, if you make a light very dim, you can get it down to one photon at a time, sort of like dropping one pellet at a time.   Getting a photon down to one at a time is a bit tricky, much harder than getting a single pellet to pour out of a barrel of pellets, but not impossible.

Photons, unlike shotgun pellets have no mass, but they still have energy.  This energy is transmitted from whatever emitted it to whatever it finally hits.   Thus the photon is an energy carrier in a hurry, always moving at the speed of light.

Next I’ll tell you a little about an easily duplicated experiment using double slits that can be used to prove that light is a wave but also can be used to prove that light is a particle.  It is a good illustration of quantum weirdness.