Category Archives: drawing

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.  


Article and drawing, Copyright 2006, 2007,

James A. Tabb

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.