A Matter of Relativity?
Copyright 2006/2007 James A. Tabb
Part 4: Photons that hit tilted glass
Individual photons directed at tilted glass have an option of being reflected or going through. They can’t do both because they can’t be divided, or so we are told. Yet some experiments seem to imply that they sometimes take both paths unless a detector is in place. It is my thought that the foreshortened world of the photon explains this phenomenon too
Figure 9: Photons on tilted glass
Relativity at Work
Because the photon is moving at the speed of light, the entire path from emission to destruction has zero length and zero time passage. Time and space are both warped while it is in flight. It does not matter what we measure or calculate. The entire experimental assembly is to the photon like a flat surface with all the options congruent to the front surface, that surface being stuck to the point of its emission, and shrunk to zero thickness, glass, air paths, mirrors and all. All the open paths are the same length (zero) to the photon, regardless of how we measure them.
If a detector is in place, it is in the way immediately, independently of distances and times as we measure them. The photon is instantaneously (from a relativistic perspective) connected to the screen by all optional paths that lead to the same points, and the photon separates without breaking until it begins to meld together somewhere. Otherwise it takes one path or another and still gets where it is going.
There is an argument that the photon must go through the glass whole since the photons transmitted through the glass are actually retransmissions within the glass, not the same photon that impacts it. That argument then says that the other path has to either have had no photon or a whole one also (creation of energy not allowed). It also says that the photon must retain a whole packet of energy.
My argument is that the entire path, including the glass and the remaining path through the experiment all the way to a recombination point is impossibly thin to the photon at the time it hits it. There is no separation because the paths are zero distance apart. This argument also avoids the messy retransmissions within the glass argument, as they are not necessary.
It can then “feel’ itself through this very thin apparatus. It is thus capable of separating into two paths that recombine at the proper point before the photon separates at the surface of the glass. This keeps the photon whole and yet allows it to take multiple paths.
Our perspective seems to be that the flight path is of finite duration and the paths seem to be of vastly different lengths. Thus we don’t always understand what is happening. The photon could care less about our perspective – it is working within a highly warped time and space and we are not. If it finds a way to recombine without violating its energy conservation directive, it will do so even if a portion of it separates at the glass, wraps around the various mirrors and recombines with a portion that is passing through the glass. That is ok since the total distance of its flat world is still zero and the physical recombination takes place before the physical separation takes place. United they move!
The experimental apparatus grows as the photon passes through it. Those parts in front of the photon are still stuck to its nose and of zero remaining depth. Those parts to each side of the photon have normal depth and structure. Those it has passed are invisible and forever behind it, vanished. When it hits a glass surface, all the paths in front of and also along its reflected paths are plastered as if congruent. Thus all open paths are available at that instant. If any are closed, then those paths are not available for passage.
Even where a detector is switched in (from our perspective) after it passes through the glass, it is a closed path to the photon at the glass surface because the entire path has zero depth the instant it is emitted due to the photon being at c throughout its entire path. Indeed the path with the detector is closed when it is emitted, as all the paths are of zero depth the instant emitted, even if the photon is switched in at some later time (from our perspective). Relativitistic forshortening is instantaneous to an object running at c. This is all taking place in a space-time warp where length is zero, time is zero for the photon’s flight but not for us, the stationary observers!
The difficult thing to wrap our minds around is the fact that the instant the photon is emitted, whether on a distant star, or on a filiment within our laboratory, the entire path that it takes occurs at the same instant of time throughout its path, birth, flight, death – all instantaneous to the photon (no matter what happens within that path in our “normal world” time-frame) . If a detector is absent at the instant the photon is emitted and then switched in later before it arrives (from our normal world perspective), the photon is fully affected at the instant of emission (from a relativistic world perspective) as if it had been there the whole time, and thus the outcome is determined at that instant, not when we think it has passed. It cannot be fooled.