Q: If light is a wave, then what’s doing the waving?

Physicist: In short: nothing.  Light acts like a wave, but unlike sound waves, light isn’t a material that’s moving back-and-forth.

Waves are a coordinated movement of atoms.  A wave itself isn’t made of anything, it’s just a propagating motion through a material.  Each part of the medium more or less stays where it is, but passes the movement of the wave to nearby material.

A wave is a coordinated movement that passes through a medium, generally without the medium itself moving very far.

For example, sound manages to move get from whatever-that-was-just-now to your ear at about 0.2 miles per second.  At yet, the air around you doesn’t noticeably move anywhere when sound moves through it.  Sound is literally just atoms in air smacking into other atoms, making those freshly smacked atoms move a tiny distance to smack into another set of atoms, and so on.

While waves take several different forms, the basic idea is always the same: waves are tiny movements that propagate from place to place inside of a host material.  Sound is waves in air, ripples are waves in water, earthquakes are waves in the ground; every wave seems to need some material to do the waving.

In the double slit experiment light exhibits wave-interference.  So light must be a wave.

A few centuries ago, Thomas Young proved that light is definitely a wave by demonstrating that it is capable of interference.  In so doing he also managed to measure the wavelength of visible light: 400nm for purple to 700nm for red.  Technically, what Young did was demonstrate that, whatever light it is, has wave-like properties.  At the time, everything that was known to be wave-like was in fact a wave.  So Young’s experiment led to the completely natural, titular question of this post: if light is a wave, then what’s doing the waving?

Physicists, never shy to name things they’re pretty sure exists, declared that the material light moves through is the Luminiferous Aether (“luminous” for “light” and “aether” for “I don’t know what it is either”).

Typically, when you can hear, you can breathe, and when you can be pushed by an ocean wave, you’re already wet.  Because we can see, we must be immersed in the Luminiferous Aether (otherwise, how does the light get to our eyes?).  It would seem that one of the important properties of the Aether is that you can’t feel it, see it, or smell it.

One of the first experiments concerning the Aether was to evacuate (pull all the air out of) a glass jar and look through it.  Turns out: light doesn’t need anything made of matter to move through.  The Aether must be fill the universe and pass freely through every material thing.  And since we can see stars just as clearly in every direction, it must fill the universe in a very smooth and uniform way.  Strange stuff.

There is a long history of debate over why the Aether does or doesn’t exist.  It doesn’t.  Here’s a very brief thread of the debate that more or less gets to (one of) the heart(s) of the issue.

The fact that light has polarization means that it is a transverse wave (side/side), but only longitudinal waves (forward/back) can exist in a gas or liquid.

a: Longitudinal waves can exist in gases.  b: Both longitudinal and transverse waves exist in solids.

That implies that the Aether must be a solid that permeates all of space.  But here’s the thing: Earth moves.  More than that, it moves in big circles, so for most (if not all) of the year it must be moving relative to the Aether.  That movement is detectable.

If you drop pebbles off of a moving boat, you’ll notice that the ripples moving toward the front of the boat move slower and the ripples moving toward the back move faster (from your boat-bound perspective).  If you bounce waves back and forth in a moving medium you find that they go faster in one way and slower in the other and that overall the slow part “wins”; waves always take longer to go out and come back in a moving medium.  So bouncing waves back and forth is a good way to tell if you’re moving and even how fast.

Enter Michelson-Morley.  In the late 19th century they created an interferometer which bounced light back and forth in two directions and then compared the two paths.  Any discrepancy in the direction or speed of the waves in either direction is immediately detectable.  I’m mean, you can’t even breathe near these things without sending the interference pattern into convulsions.  In fact, interferometers are so sensitive that they’re used to detect gravity waves (which are a really, really… really tiny effect).

Left: In an interferometer light is bounced along two paths and recombined.  Right: The combined light interferes creating an interference pattern.  These are infamously sensitive to even tiny changes.

But no matter how Michelson and Morley aligned their apparatus, and no matter how it was moving, the results were always exactly consistent with zero movement of the Aether.  So assuming it exists, the Aether must be solid and it must be stationary with respect to the Earth.  This spawned a whole string of weird theories, like that the Aether is mostly solid but also sticks to the Earth as it moves.  These new theories have since been ruled out one by one.  For example, if the Earth did have a blob of Aether stuck to it, the “shear boundary” between the Earth’s moving patch of Aether and the differently moving Aether of deep space should have made stars appear to move throughout the year.  But they don’t.

Following light, we found that every other kind of quantum wave (there’s one for every different kind of particle), has wave-like properties but no medium.  For example, electrons are also waves and they also don’t need a medium to move through (they move through deep space all the time).  These mediumless-waves are distinct from the waves we’re usually talking about when we say “wave” (like sound and ripples).  We need a new word for mediumless-waves to distinguish them from mediumful-waves.  “Evaw” maybe?  Or… anything other than Evaw.

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31 Responses to Q: If light is a wave, then what’s doing the waving?

  1. G says:

    What nonsense!
    Light requires a medium. Modern theory suggests a quantum vacuum etc etc.

  2. Idran says:

    Wait, what do you mean “these new theories were shot down pretty quick”? Lorentz and Poincaré worked for years, alongside others, on Lorentz ether theory after M-M. Poincaré’s 1912 paper “The Quantum Theory” still referred to the luminiferous ether, and that was almost 20 years after M-M. Einstein gave a talk at the University of Leyden in 1920 specifically addressing how some physicists still held to the idea of the ether as a way of explaining action at a distance and the wave behavior of light.

    I know the idea that M-M gave a near-instant upending of the understanding of science is a common tale told as a demonstration of how eager scientists are to overturn old lore when new experiments contradict it, but it doesn’t fit the actual historical events; it’s literal myth-telling, and it gives a false perception of how science in practice works. It’s how people want it to work, and M-M is supposed to be an amazing example of that, but it just doesn’t actually fit the historical record of what happened in the years following.

    The Aether drag hypothesis predates M-M. It was proposed literally decades before the M-M experiment, and Michelson was specifically trying to confirm Stokes’ variation of it, which he initially thought he had.

  3. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    @Idran
    Fair enough. I consider 20 or 30 years to be pretty quick, but that is worth changing. Thanks!

  4. Eric says:

    Another possibility is the Aether is a frictionless fluid, like helium etc.

  5. Pyrillix says:

    Since we talking about waves, electrons, double slit experiment, etc.,
    In that famous experiment as modified later, by shooting one electron at a time it was a wave until observed, as I remember it.
    Can that observation be based on a phosphor screen for example that would show the change from a wave to particle or would any method of observing or recording
    Make the test invalid, it seems hard to believe that merely observing it really could change the results

  6. So light is a Particle after all. Not a wave. The “wave” is an illusion. Erwin Schrodinger might not agree with you. Light goes back and forth between a cohesive wave state, and a particle…a Photon. Your explanation is wanting.

  7. Ángel Méndez Rivera says:

    I would think it is inaccurate to say that the object that oscillates to create the wave is nothing. The object “doing the waving” are actually the electromagnetic fields that permeate and permit through the vacuum. A very important corollary to understand is that the notion that light is a wave stems from Maxwell’s equations, which also indicate that that time-varying electric fields create magnetic fields, and vice versa. Certain interactions create oscillating magnetic fields and oscillating electric fields, and those oscillations are what is represented with a light wave.

  8. PJ London says:

    In our modern times and our ‘new’ understandings, and thanks to people like Caitlyn Jenner, we can now grasp that just because ‘a’ behaves in the manner of ‘b’, it does not mean that it ‘is’ an instance of ‘b’.
    The fact that Longitudinal waves require a medium, and behave differently in different mediums, does not in any way show the necessity that transverse waves require a medium.
    Simple ‘Black Swan’ error.
    PS Longitudinal waves only require a ‘medium’ until we discover an example that does not.

  9. Robert Lucien Howe says:

    How about a little Heresy?

    If you take it that light travels in straight lines then its possible to define the speed of light as a velocity. That might not sound controversial but its actually enough to completely overturn the current model of physics.
    When an object in motion changes direction it also accelerates. For light that means it crosses an FTL barrier. The light region is thus defined as an FTL vector space.

    Immediately extracted from this is the observation that FTL behaviour looks like waves and STL behaviour looks like particles.

    As for the ether, the ether problem is really just semantics. In this model the ether is just space itself, or to be more precise the vector space of the speed of light.

    An FTL vector space rules out General Relativity as the primary theory of FTL mechanics because it allows us to observe the FTL space directly. The FTL space is flat and that only fits with a flat FTL absolute frame geometry with an FTL Simultaneity. That rules out dimensional time and replaces it with point time. Dimensional time becomes a phenomenon that is purely local to objects travelling at relativistic velocities, or is restricted to quantum scales.

  10. Photons cannot be waves! They can travel billions of light years through empty space and after that trip, they can still be detected.
    See:https://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Hilbert_Book_Model_Project

  11. Leo says:

    So maybe light is not wave, but something behaving similarly to wave? Why we don’t say it is a particle which constantly oscillates back and forth perpendicular to the line of the propagation in such a way that it reproduces diffraction and other wave properties?

  12. Ángel Méndez Rivera says:

    @Richard H. Pratt,

    Light is both a wave and a particle. Your explanation is wrong. The wave-particle duality is the founding principle of quantum mechanics, from ehich we obtain Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Schrödinger’s Wave Equation. It also yields the superposition of states, which is what the double-slit experiment demonstrated.

    @Robart Lucien Howe,

    General relativity is not a FTL mechanics, and the cosmic causal limit is still preserved. Acceleration implies not a FTL vector space for electromagnetic field oscillations, because acceleration has a radial company, but also a tangential one, and the tangential component of acceleration changes not the speed of the particle.

    You’re also ignoring the superposition of states and the Heisenberg Uncertinty Principle.

    @Hans Van Leunen,

    What’s the problem with waves propagating through nothing? I already explained that the propagation of electromagnetic radiation waves occur due to field oscillations and photon excitements.

    @Leo,

    Light has been proven to be both a wave and a particle simultaneously.

  13. Dutch says:

    What modern science says about the possibility of an aether isn’t what you wrote in your article here. First off the fabric of “spacetime” in General Relativity exists everywhere and it has properties everywhere governing how all things move including light and all other particle-waves. Furthermore Quantum Field Theory, the most accurate theory ever created, has fields existing everywhere with values at all points. There are even scalar fields in QFT. As soon as properties are given to “empty” space this space ceases to be “nothing.”

    Whatever space “is” it has properties so it isn’t nothing and all particles including light travel through it. If quantum field theory is fully correct those “particles” are merely excitations of those quantum fields. The idea of fields existing everywhere in spacetime isn’t far fetched at all. That those fields follow the same physics in other galaxies isn’t any more amazing than the particles following the same physics in other galaxies.

    Now this “aether” isn’t called such in modern science because it has properties much different than a classical aether.

    1) There is no absolute velocity ascribed to it. This either means it’s a 4D something like the block universe or it’s 3D something like what Lorentz thought. In either case (or possibly a third case I don’t know of) it has Relativistic Symmetry and follows the Lorentz Transformation so no “aether” wind. Lorentz Invariance is what matter here and what we can test in a lab.

    2) There is no aether drag. If Quantum Field Theory is correct and ALL particles are excitations of fields existing everywhere in spacetime we would expect no aether drag. There simply isn’t a bowling ball dragging through spacetime. Rather everything including all particles, bowling balls, planets, etc are all waves or excitations of the fields. As such they propagate like all other waves instead of “drag.” This is quite clear in translating between position a and b in QFT.

    With no aether drag and no absolute velocity (we can detect) a classical aether certainly does not exist. However, if we can ascribe properties to empty space (like field values, permitivity, permeability, curvature, Higgs Field value, etc) then certainly “something” exists that light propagates through. I define “something” as the existence of distinct properties and especially properties that can vary or change.

  14. PJ London says:

    @A M Rivera
    : ” Captan Piccard wants you in the engine room”
    I have never seen a more complete menage of trivial rubbish in one post. Nothing of relevance and throwing in ‘Appeals to authority’ with fancy names just makes you look foolish. Please show in 1,000 words or less how the uncertainty principle applies to wave propagation of light.

    @Dutch
    the term ‘fabric of space time’ is a nice enough phrase but says nothing about what it is.
    “fabric’ makes it seem like a physical entity, but no-one that I know of has implied, much less claimed that it is such. Space – time as such does not have properties, but is the short hand for describing the functions of distance, gravity and the appearance of continuity and causality.
    ” … it has Relativistic Symmetry and follows the Lorentz Transformation so no “aether” wind.” please demonstrate any relevance of ; ‘is an equivalence of observation or observational symmetry due to special relativity implying that the laws of physics stay the same for all observers that are moving with respect to one another within an inertial frame. It has also been described as “the feature of nature that says experimental results are independent of the orientation or the boost velocity of the laboratory through space” to the question of how light can be transmitted as a wave.
    You do not seem to understand the difference between describing something and explaining something.
    To make it simple, “the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two side ” describes a function, but gives no clue as to why the function is true.
    All the physic-babble might get you a PhD but would not allow you to explain the making of a cup of tea, never mind the action of a candle in a dark room.
    Perhaps you would care to explain to us peasants ‘if-light-is-a-wave-then-whats-doing-the-waving’ .
    Your last sentence is ridiculous, ‘the property of happiness exists and therefore light can propagate through it’.
    Definitely MIT material.

  15. Bruce Barron says:

    I bet if one shot a single photon through the first screen and then let the photon go through the second screen with alternating single holes in the second screen in whatever pattern one wishes, you would get the same pattern as tthe wave pattern. Has this been tried?

  16. Dutch says:

    @PJ London

    “the term ‘fabric of space time’ is a nice enough phrase but says nothing about what it is.
    “fabric’ makes it seem like a physical entity, but no-one that I know of has implied, much less claimed that it is such. Space – time as such does not have properties, but is the short hand for describing the functions of distance, gravity and the appearance of continuity and causality.”

    What? LIGOS clearly demonstrated gravitational waves exist. This displays that spacetime has its own properties that vary from location to location. This is just one experiment demonstrating spacetime has properties and it is a profound statement. I don’t have to know what “spacetime” is to know that if properties are assigned to “empty” space then it’s not nothing. Light most certainly does propagate through spacetime and changing the properties of spacetime does change how the light propagates. An example is gravitational lensing. Spacetime most definitely has a property called curvature. What causes the signal to change inside of a large interferometer leading to the detecting of a gravity wave when no matter exists? Nothingness? How can nothingness vary? How can nothingness have locally different values? The answer is spacetime curves. In GR spacetime most certainly does have properties assigned locally. I don’t care what you call it you have to assign local properties to it.

    Quantum Field Theory also has the electromagnetic field existing throughout all of spacetime and photons are excitations of this field. BTW QFT is the most accurate theory used as the basis of the Standard Model. In fact most physicists view “empty” space as a relativistic aether but they don’t call it by this name because they don’t want to bring back the problems of the 19th century aether. Instead they call it “fields” or “spacetime.” No this does not explain what the fields are or what “spacetime” is. However, I don’t have to and beyond some descriptions no one knows what they are. All I have to show is that “empty” space has locally defined properties and these properties affect how light behaves (and other particles) in said space. Light does propagate through “something” with locally defined characteristics that changes how the light behaves. That “something” does not need to be mechanical or matter in any way we’ve ever envisioned. Why would it? I’m not invoking a classical aether.

    “Your last sentence is ridiculous, ‘the property of happiness exists and therefore light can propagate through it’.”

    Light does not propagate through happiness. Light DOES propagate through spacetime. This is a difference that anyone should see right away. I’m writing a comment and not trying to write a book so please give a little benefit of the doubt. Spacetime does have properties and those properties affect how light propagates. When locally varying values can be applied to “nothing” then it ceases to be nothing. No one understands “why” gravity works the way it does so I definitely don’t have to explain it. Sure we have models of it that describe its properties but I’m NOT going to explain how it works because no one understands that. You can call it the curvature of spacetime and you can model it but this does not explain it. Please read up on how Einstein and many physicists view General Relativity. Einstein himself called “spacetime” a four dimensional aether.

    The following is just a small snip describing what Einstein had said on the matter:
    “The only similarity of this relativistic aether concept with the classical aether models lies in the presence of physical properties in space, which can be identified through geodesics. As historians such as John Stachel argue, Einstein’s views on the “new aether” are not in conflict with his abandonment of the aether in 1905. As Einstein himself pointed out, no “substance” and no state of motion can be attributed to that new aether.”

    Note that “something” does not mean substance as substance implies particles. I never suggested there needs to be some material like atoms or particles. No, all that’s required for “something” is local properties (something does cause those local properties…). I don’t have the slightest guess on how this fundamentally works because I don’t have a theory of everything. Besides curvature is far from the only property of “empty” space.

    I could not make sense out of some of your sentences so I did not respond to everything.

  17. Robert Lucien Howe says:

    #Ángel Méndez Rivera

    I’m sorry General Relativity does have pretentions of being an FTL theory – Dimensional time, a general 4D space time, wormhole bridges, and the relativity of simultaneity are all FTL physics propositions. All lead to a universe without a stable FTL geometry. I had written a better explanation but the bit bucket got it – so I’ll end with this more ‘humorous’ explanation… 🙂

    Humour (This humorous list explains everything.) – [14-03-17]

    The Relativity Salesman
    Mentions –
    – Curved Space Time
    – Mathematical beauty
    – General Relativity is the best

    Doesn’t Mention –
    – Weak Causality
    – Incompatible with an old universe.
    – Doesn’t allow light to travel in straight lines.
    – Fixed FTL Fate.
    – Incompatible with a universe with quantum mechanics.

    The FTL Absolute Frame Salesman

    Mentions –
    – Failure of General Relativity at FTL speeds.
    – FTL Point time space time model.
    – FTL model compatible with quantum mechanics.
    – Provides a new concrete definition of space time – existing on quantum scales.
    – Provides a new definition of general relativity compatible with quantum mechanics.
    – Simple and Reductionist.
    – Strong Causality & Old Universe.
    – The FTL universe is observable through light.

    May Not Mention –
    – Compatible with a universe creation model that could be called ‘God’..
    – Chooses a model of quantum mechanics that makes physics basically compatible with ‘magic’.
    – Malleable FTL Fate gives a basic physics mechanism for ‘spell-casting’ and ‘precognition’ and ‘luck’.

  18. PJ London says:

    @Dutch
    Gravity exists as I quoted. Gravitational lensing exists as a function of the force of gravity. Time as a perceived continuum exists both forward and backward. What properties excluding distance, a perceived continuum and gravity exist to prove spacetime? In other words, what properties does spacetime have that are not properties of some other function.
    You shot yourself in the foot with ”As Einstein himself pointed out, no “substance” and no state of motion can be attributed to that new aether.” He used it as a catchall for the properties of other forces, it is easier to say a car, rather than list all of the parts. He said ‘presence of physical properties in space’ please not the words ‘in space’ he did not use the words ‘of space’.
    You claimed that ‘something exists that light propagates through’, and then “I define “something” as the existence of distinct properties and especially properties that can vary or change.” and use this as ‘proof’ that there must be something for light to propagate through. Total circular logic, as I pointed out, happiness exists, so why should light not be propagated through happiness? Also you use the word ‘propagate’ there is no reason to assume that light cannot travel through a substance e.g. glass, without the glass ‘propagating’ light. Similarly Photons can travel through what may effectively be empty space (1 atom per 10cc’s) without encountering any interaction at all. What in that 1 atom per 10cc’s propagates light?

    There is not to my knowledge any theory that ‘light’ is propagated in ‘spacetime’ but requires some source. It requires a molecular, atomic or nuclear transition of energy to release a photon. If you have information to the contrary, please advise.
    The other paragraph was in your throwing ‘Lorentz’ into the comments, his input has nothing to do with the subject, but in the manipulation of mathematical equations and shows that one’s spatial position, (the first three dimensions) and speed (effect of the fourth dimension) do not affect the outcome, (more or less that is my understanding. A major basic input to Einstein’s general relativity?)
    “No, all that’s required for “something” is local properties …” apart from Voodoo (called Blackholes ; [lots and lots of gravity in one place]) and Magic (called Dark Matter ; [lots of gravity but all over the place]) all the properties are explained by known forces.The fact that the forces affect some localities more than others is also a known and explained factor.
    Please explain what is wrong with the statement ‘Photons (light) can travel for a long time, billions of years, at a constant speed and thus cover a distance of billions of light years. The photon will travel in a direct line unless a collision with a particle (molecule, dust, air, water, glass, retinas etc.), or a force such as gravity deflects it. It demonstrates either wavelike properties or particle-like properties when detected. It is thus assumed that it inheres both types of property.”

  19. Ángel Méndez Rivera says:

    @PJ London,

    1. There is no appeal to authority in my arguments, and that isn’t implied by my use of conceptual names.
    2. The relevance of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is very simple: because a photon always travels at c, the product of the uncertainties in the position and momentum of the photon must be greater than a constant always. Therefore, a photon has a wave function that show it is a wave. This is how electromagnetic propagation works.
    3. Spacetime is a physical entity. The existence of dark energy as an actual force with properties and the existence of gravitational waves suggests this. Spacetime is just a 4D-Lorentzian manifold.
    4. Happiness is not a physical object, it is a psychological construct. The electromagnetic field isn’t. As such, happiness hasn’t any physical properties, so light can’t propagate thru it per Dutch’s plan. Common sense.

    @Robert Lucien Howe,

    1. Dimensional time, a general 4D spacetime, and relative simultaneity are all consequences of special relativity, not general relativity.
    2. Wormhole bridges are mere solutions to the Einstein field equations, none of it is in contradiction with the special relativity conclusion that c is the cosmic speed limit.
    3. As such, none of the above lead to any sort of FTL geometry. Geometry is independent of FTL travel anyway.
    4. “Weak causality” and “strong causality” aren’t real concepts in astrophysics. And general relativity is in fact compatible with an old universe. In fact, one of the reasons an old universe was predicted was due general relativity, which is what lead to the Big Bang Theory.
    5. Light travels in straight lines regardless of the geometry if we ignore it’s wave nature because the straightness of line is unique to the geometry itself, not to the flatness of it.
    6. There isn’t a problem with an FTL fate.
    7. Every person who has some education in physics is aware of the incompatibility between general relativity and quantum mechanics. Changing relativity to your own weird and inconsistent FTL model won’t solve that problem because the incompatibility doesn’t arise from FTL frames.
    8. “The FTL universe is observable through light” is a literal self-contradiction and hence a physical impossibility. It’s clear to me you have little understanding of the terms you’re throwing out your keyboard.
    9. All universes are compatible with creation by God by definition. However, there is zero evidence suggesting the evidence of such a God and of such a creation.
    10. Magic is by definition Supernatural, so no laws of physics can allow such a thing as magic.
    11. Luck is a statistical abstract phenomenon, not a physical one. You literally understand not what you’re saying.

  20. Dutch says:

    _”In other words, what properties does spacetime have that are not properties of some other function.”_

    Cosmological Constant (Dark Energy), zero point fluctuations (Casmir Effect for example), field values (including the scalar Higgs Field), gravitational waves, etc. The aforementioned notwithstanding, particles act on spacetime and spacetime acts on particles… so what? If a girl jumps on a trampoline she creates a wave that propagates across the trampoline. If a rock is thrown in water that rock creates ripples. If a ball is placed on a rubber sheet it makes a depression. The fact that some object deformed/disturbed the trampoline, water, or rubber sheet does not negate the existence of the trampoline, water, or rubber sheet. Those things have physical properties. Creating laws/theories for say what happens when the girl deforms the trampoline is what physics does (just more fundamentally). I don’t get your line of reasoning.

    “You shot yourself in the foot with ”As Einstein himself pointed out, no “substance” and no state of motion can be attributed to that new aether.” He used it as a catchall for the properties of other forces, it is easier to say a car, rather than list all of the parts. He said ‘presence of physical properties in space’ please not the words ‘in space’ he did not use the words ‘of space’.”

    Don’t get it (your sentences do not make sense). The main property here is the curvature OF spacetime. Most certainly all properties exist in space (what’s outside of space) but curvature is a property OF spacetime.

    “There is not to my knowledge any theory that ‘light’ is propagated in ‘spacetime’ but requires some source. It requires a molecular, atomic or nuclear transition of energy to release a photon. If you have information to the contrary, please advise.”

    Again I don’t understand your sentences so I’m left to guess at what you’re saying. So? Classical waves have a source (something causing a disturbance like the rock or the girl) so what you said is meaningless.

    “Also you use the word ‘propagate’ there is no reason to assume that light cannot travel through a substance e.g. glass, without the glass ‘propagating’ light.”

    What?

    “Total circular logic, as I pointed out, happiness exists, so why should light not be propagated through happiness?”

    Your preoccupation with “happiness” is meaningless as “happiness” isn’t a physical property. I have no clue why you’re bringing this up like it’s some point.

    “Similarly Photons can travel through what may effectively be empty space (1 atom per 10cc’s) without encountering any interaction at all. What in that 1 atom per 10cc’s propagates light?”

    Define empty. No physical properties? Then spacetime isn’t “empty.” The concept of “nothing” is a human made idealization which may not (most likely does not) exist anywhere in reality.

    “‘Lorentz’ into the comments, his input has nothing to do with the subject”

    Lorentz? Yes, he most definitely does.

    “but in the manipulation of mathematical equations and shows that one’s spatial position, (the first three dimensions) and speed (effect of the fourth dimension) do not affect the outcome, (more or less that is my understanding. A major basic input to Einstein’s general relativity?”

    Say what? That makes completely no sense.

    “apart from Voodoo (called Blackholes … all the properties are explained by known forces.The fact that the forces affect some localities more than others is also a known and explained factor.”

    I wouldn’t say all the properties are explained but the theory that does the best job is Quantum Field Theory. This theory explains via FIELDS. Look at a corn field and get that visual in your mind. Perhaps the corn is short in some areas and tall in others because something disturbed the corn (fertilizer, hazardous chemicals etc). Fields are simply entities that ascribe local properties to all points. The emphasis is on LOCAL.

    General Relativity also has field equations that ascribe a local curvature value everywhere. According to GR if a mass is placed somewhere it distorts spacetime in the immediate vicinity. This warped spacetime then distorts the spacetime slightly further away. This then continues outwards. The property of curvature is held LOCALLY as Relativity is a local theory (information cannot travel faster than light or more fundamentally some maximum speed and neither can changes in fields). Quantum Field Theory is also a local theory and the fields are ascribed with local values with maximum information transfer rate of c.

    Now classical gravity (Newton) was modeled as moving at INFINITE speed and it worked VERY well. If gravity wasn’t a local theory (AKA instantaneous) then switching reference frames would require infinitely quick changes in fields which violates Special Relativity. However, this is NOT how QFT nor GR works and the only way around this problem is to have the properties ascribed locally. Slight predicted differences between Newton with an infinite speed of light (instantaneous) and Einstein with a finite speed of light have been observed many times. This requires local properties ascribed to spacetime and for QFT local field values. This way both requirements are met: 1) Locality as predicted by Relativity 2) Convergence with the “instantaneous” Newtonian Theory in the classical limit. Einstein completely removed the concept of an aether in 1905 but was required to put a form of it back in to get a working theory of gravity ten years later (but very different than 19th century aethers).

    Empty space isn’t really empty and it has properties locally ascribed in both GR and QFT (and in other further observations).

    “Please explain what is wrong with the statement ‘Photons (light) can travel for a long time, billions of years, at a constant speed and thus cover a distance of billions of light years. The photon will travel in a direct line unless a collision with a particle (molecule, dust, air, water, glass, retinas etc.), or a force such as gravity deflects it. ”

    Who said photons can’t travel for a long time/distance or at a constant speed/straight line? (if the measurement of the speed and straightness is sufficiently local per Local Lorentz Covariance) Gravity doesn’t “deflect” photons. Again you don’t understand what a field is or how GR works.

  21. Robert Lucien Howe says:

    1. These things might all be consequences of SR but they are all also part of GR. The two theories are so connected that I generally treat them as two parts of a single entity.
    2. Sounds like ducking the issue. If they exist wormhole bridges cannot simply be abstract maths, but require a concrete geometry. That geometry involves the folding of general space, something that is not compatible with a stable FTL geometry or an old universe..
    3. If you create something called a space time diagram you can create a basic map of STL verses FTL geometry. There isn’t any part of physics that doesn’t involve the FTL part of that system, FTL shadows get into everything right down to the quantum scale.
    Also I never mentioned FTL travel.
    4. You are right about causality, standard modern physics doesn’t really have a proper map of causality. The first evidence that the universe is old was discovered by Olle Romer who mapped the speed of light in 1676. The big bang theory itself didn’t directly require general relativity either, it was based on an extrapolation based on Astronomical observation.
    5. Light follows straight paths, those paths are defined by the geometry of empty space – a geometry that can only exist as an FTL space.
    6. Having a fixed FTL fate (ie both the past and future are completely fixed) is the bodge that is used to hold the General Relativity universe together. It is also the point where general relativity becomes completely incompatible with quantum mechanics.
    8. The speed of light forms an edge between FTL and STL speeds/velocities and therefore STL and FTL velocity spaces. In my model the two form a single continuous 3D manifold.
    I actually have some pretty strong evidence on this one based on the extrapolated mass of tachyons. I started all this in the late 90’s while developing a new algebra for Strong AI, during that project I solved the imaginary number problem. Imaginary numbers have roots that are number superpositions that sum to zero. Therefore all tachyons have net zero mass. Photons also have net zero mass and this directly connects the two spaces.
    9. This was a piece of humour referring to the fact that my model allows a complete finite solution to the finely tuned universe Anthropic question. The model can be described as pure chance – it can also be described as ‘God’. Curiously it is a god that should ultimately be buildable in the laboratory and may lead to irrefutable proof of an FTL type model.
    10. You obviously fail to grasp the meaning of Arthur C Clarks second law “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Magic is only science that we do not yet understand.
    11. I used to believe that. Luck being malleable is one of the consequences of a malleable FTL fate. In the FTL model the past and future do not exist except as abstractions – and therefore they are not fixed. This is part of why the FTL model has a very strong causality, there is no way of breaking it.

  22. Neruz says:

    To those people who are having difficulty understanding the concept of a particle that behaves like a wave, do keep in mind that there is no particular reason why the Universe should make sense to some smarter than average apes that happened to evolve on one of its many, many planets.
    Physics doesn’t have to make sense, it just has to -work-.

  23. Ángel Méndez Rivera says:

    @Robert Lucien Howe:

    1. You can’t treat GR and SR as two parts of a single entity, and doing so demonstrates you know very little about GR. SR is a consequence of GR, so every statement that is a consequence of SR is also a consequence of GR, but no one says, “the cosmic speed limit is determined by GR”, because that isn’t science. Scientists say, “The cosmic speed limit c is a consequence of SR”, because it is. GR is a generalization to curved spacetime and non-inertial frames.
    2. The folding of general space-time is compatible with GR and an old universe.
    3. QM has no violations of the FTL statements of SR.Yes, a space-time diagram can show us a map of FTL vs STL, that is irrelevant to whether real FTL phenomena exist.
    4. The Big Bang Theory as proposed by George Lemaître required no astronomical observations, the mathematical and physical consequences result directly from the Laws of Thermodynamics and GR combined. The astronomical observations came after, and they were mere experimental confirmation of the logical structure that the theories implied.
    5. “FTL fate”, “FTL space”, “Malleable FTL” aren’t real physics terms, you’re inventing concepts that are illogical and don’t make sense. Please stick to science. Also, empty space already exists within GR.
    6. GR and QM become incompatible not because of FTL laws, but because the equations aren’t complete. Which is why String theory was invented.
    7. “In my model it forms a continuous 3D manifold.” Spacetime is a Lorentzian manifold with 4 dimensions, not 3, and this stems from the tensor 4-vector form of velocities.
    8. “Imaginary numbers have roots that are number superpositions that sum to zero.” There isn’t such a thing as number superpositions, and adding the roots of the same type of an imaginary leads to 2 times the real component of the root because roots come in conjugate pairs.
    9. Mass is a function of v, and because for all tachyons, v(t) > c for all t, the mass is never imaginary and neither is the energy. Tachyons exist only as unstable field excitations that decay in energy over time. As such, the mass is never zero. And photons don’t have a zero met mass. Rather, the rest mass of a photon is undefined and the relativistic mass is equal to h/(c*l), where h is the Planck constant, c is the speed of light and l is the wavelength. Keep spewing nonsense.
    10. “This was a piece of humour referring to the fact that my model allows a complete finite solution to the finely tuned universe Anthropic question.” We can scientifically demonstrate the universe is not fine tuned.
    11. Arthur C Clark’s Second Law isn’t a law and it isn’t science. It’s just a nice and aesthetic epistemological statement.
    12. Sufficiently advanced technology may be indistinguishable from magic, but it is not synonymous to magic. Sufficiently advanced technology is science we do not yet understand, magic isn’t science at all.
    13. Once again, malleable FTL fate isn’t a concept.
    14. In GR, past and future exist as more than just abstractions.

    @Neruz:

    Physics HAS to make sense to humans because humans CREATED physics. It’s a human construct based on mathematics, observation, and logic, and these are all also human constructs. Physics isn’t a physical thing in the universe. The universe doesn’t have laws itself. The universe is just there. And there are particle who behave like waves, but they aren’t waves. Light is both a particle and a wave. Big difference.

  24. David Martin says:

    @Neruz:

    The universe is full of unlikely analogies that helped the apes get to the unlikely stage they’ve got to now. When we’re stuck, as we are with the dual nature of light, we say, ‘maybe the trail of analogies stops here’, and say things like you said – that the universe doesn’t have to make sense. But it did up to here, and our minds developed in an unlikely way that allows us to use these analogies that the universe contains, even though that carried no survival benefit. So I’d say the analogies probably go on, there are probably more of them, and I expect the universe to make sense in the future. Einstein and Newton both thought the same, and it helped them find what they found, because it made them look in the right places.

  25. David says:

    With the question ‘what’s doing the waving?’, I think the answer is ‘we don’t know, but it’s got to be something’.

    We know enough about wave motion to know it isn’t going to happen without some sort of medium, even if the medium is what we call a field.

    A field exists, it’s something. We don’t really know what, but as is pointed out in the article here:
    “Q: Does an electric field have mass? Does it take energy to move an electric field?”

    it has mass, and other properties. The article on this page doesn’t mention the fact that we think fields pervade space everywhere, and that they vibrate when waves travel through them. But it’s relevant, because it means the answer above – ‘In short: nothing’, just doesn’t work, and doesn’t seem to fit with other stuff he’s written.

  26. Robert Lucien Howe says:

    Thanks for replying to my post. Almost as soon as I had posted it I noticed that I had made a series of stupid errors. My only excuse was that I was tired and distracted when I wrote the post, and doing other things at the same time. I have a type of dyslexia that sometimes leads to a type of mental blindness and sometimes miss error even after checking on things several times – I immediately see them once published though..

    However

    2. I can give a simple example that explains what I was saying. Where is the sun now at this instant? There is an 8.25 minute light gap between us and the sun and the sun is hidden somewhere inside that gap. That is what an FTL shadow is. The problem with a non-stable FTL space and a foldable space time is that it says that the sun effectively doesn’t have a fixed position – in effect it can be said that the sun doesn’t exist. The problem is that this applies to the whole universe on all scales, from the whole of general space time right down to quantum scales.
    The model I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to describe still uses space time – the only difference is that it restricts the scale of the time dimension to quantum scales. At quantum scales you get time indeterminacy which is what you would expect from a time dimension. On larger scales the time dimension is non-coherent. It is mapping the whole of space time across the universe as a single physical coherent manifold where my FTL model differs.

    5 & 6. A “Fixed FTL Fate’ simply means that the causality of the past and future are already fixed. This is incompatible with quantum mechanics because in a quantum universe quantum interference means that if you run a timeline from the same point twice you do not get exactly the same result. Either quantum mechanics resolves to a completely deterministic system or it does not.

    11. A malleable ‘FTL Fate’ simply means that the causality of the past and future are not fixed. This is because the past and future timeline are defined as only being an abstract extrapolation. The fixed point in the FTL model is the present, which forms a synchronous universal point time.
    This is not an irrelevant point because this fulcrum between space and time becomes a way of testing one model against the other.

    7. None of this is news to me. You are simply arguing for one model against another. My model even includes the 4-space model, it just restricts it to the region of speeds below light.

    8. On imaginary numbers as superpositions. A much better explanation is required here. Back in 1996 I was working on a model that required a self complete mathematics – that is all operations had to return valid results for all values. The model had to cope with both imaginary and infinite values and division by zero. My attempted solution was permutation based – that is taking the individual operations to pieces and reverse engineering them.
    Infinites were solved by a system of context windows that defined number systems in terms of context. I was dealing with the mathematics of visual reasoning – an area full of numbers that are non-finite in one context and finite in another.
    Imaginary negative value roots only worked with one solution – (+n) x (-n) = -n^2. That can be resolved as a single value in a superposition of sign, and in this we get a superposition of two. (Each time the number is used it changes sign.) If you add the two superposition parts together you get a basic value of zero.
    This solution fits with things like the factor theorem, and with the Pythagorean circle equation. The solution works with both imaginary and real and complex values, and with standard imaginary number algebra. The mechanism also fits with positive roots where the result is single and either positive or negative. The whole thing fits as a simple straightforward symmetry. The model even resolve a solution for division by zero. (+¥) + (-¥) = 0. Zero is resolved as both an imaginary and a real number.. (The definition that zero is not an imaginary number is simply a formalism)
    What is not resolved yet is a complete mechanism for containing and manipulating the superposition.

    10. “We can scientifically demonstrate the universe is not fine tuned.” I would love to see the argument that proves that. Anthropic Question problems are notoriously hard to prove or disprove. My argument doesn’t even attempt proof – it is simply a semi-reasonable finite answer. I have an old fine tuning estimate from Roger Penrose (TENM) that puts a non- fine tuned universe at some 10^10^123 to 1 against.

    11 & 12. You are deliberately misinterpreting Arthur C. Clarks meaning. Magic either resolves to nothing or it resolves to being physics. Many things that would be called magic hundreds of years ago are all called physics or chemistry now.
    In the case of quantum mechanics some of the physics does tend to look a little like magic.

    You still fail to grasp the real problem with FTL physics – it is virtually impossible to prove or disprove anything absolutely. The part you keep missing is that this includes all the predictions made by relativity SR or GR about the FTL universe. There is literally more proof for a flat disk Earth or a Geocentric solar system than there is for the relativity of simultaneity or for a general 4D space time. When science becomes absolute beyond proof it becomes religion.. When its conviction in its own truth goes even beyond that it becomes a cult.

  27. Robster says:

    Gravity is the most fundamental force in the universe because it tells us that we, and everything else, actually exist. Solve the gravity riddle, and you solve everything.

  28. How many distance a single photon which originated from atoms travel in a unit point of time?

  29. PJ London says:

    Naresh,
    “The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted c, is a universal physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its exact value is 299,792,458 metres per second (approximately 3.00×108 m/s, approximately 186,282 mi/s); it is exact because the unit of length, the metre, is defined from this constant and the international standard for time.”
    300,000 kms per second close enough.

  30. Jimmy says:

    Hello,

    Following light, we found that every other kind of quantum wave (there’s one for every different kind of particle), has wave-like properties but no medium. For example, electrons are also waves and they also don’t need a medium to move through (they move through deep space all the time).

    May I have an example therefore?

  31. The Physicist The Physicist says:

    @Jimmy
    Some of the earliest indication that electrons, neutrons, and protons were waves comes from Bragg Diffraction in crystals. Rather than bouncing off in every direction, a stream of incoming particles will scatter only in directions corresponding to constructive wave interference.

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