View Full Version : Is being a sunbeam all its cracked up to be?

Mr Optimistic
29th Apr 2018, 11:56
In the course of a pointless and fruitless discussion at work, to which I am a frequent contributor, the subject of the speed of light came up. Since I know many here have a deep interest in this, no one will be too surprised at the turn of conversation. Based on half remembered theory, I pointed out in answer to some desultry chat that at relativistic speeds the school boy formula for relative velocity doesn't work and you have to use the special relativity result such that two photons heading for each other would determine their relative speed to be c and not 2c.

When the applause died down I then ventured into more troublesome territory in which I imagine life as a photon which has caused me to think and I am not sure I have a proper grasp on this.

At the speed of light, all dimensions are contracted to zero so my little photon eyes can't see the universe, everything is a point. If it's a point then there's nowhere to travel to so speed is meaningless. Given time dilation an observer would see my watch had stopped ticking so I would spend an eternity going nowhere. If the universe is a point, all photons, energy and so on is concentrated at that point so it's effectively the big bang singularity.

Am I doomed to spend eternity at the instance of creation going nowhere, and if that is every photons reality, how can other realities be co-existing?

Will think of this next time a light is shone in my face.

Thought I would share ( it's raining outside.....I think. Perhaps I need to get out more).

30th Apr 2018, 03:00
Try having a glass of wine (or maybe the whole bottle) and perhaps it will make more sense?:}

30th Apr 2018, 06:41
Am I doomed to spend eternity at the instance of creation going nowhere

pretty much...I vaguely recall one science fiction writer (can’t remember who) describing a photon’s existence as being something like “travelling around the universe in an eternal instant” ......

Ascend Charlie
30th Apr 2018, 08:19
And of course, the poor photon gets horribly confused when he is accepted as being an electromagnetic wave instead of a particle. Instead of LGBTFSQ3 problems he has PEW troubles.

30th Apr 2018, 10:01
Just clear something up for me Mr Op . At the speed of light an observer would see that your watch had stopped ticking; where is said observer standing? ...and if time has stopped why do you need a watch?

30th Apr 2018, 10:11
We are all here for eternity anyway, whether it be in the form of humans or bits of carbon or digested remains of worms,

Mr Optimistic
30th Apr 2018, 10:48
@Tone. Time has stopped for the photon but not me. No idea how you read a clock that's sizzling past like that but the time information from the photon must travel at speed c too, but relative to the photon the equation gives a relative speed of 0/0. I suspect that if you conjure up a theory which is based on a finite limit for relative speed which applies to the whole universe, like what Einstein did, then anything which travels at that speed is a bit special and fundamentally fundamental.

Odd to imagine a thing which just sits static in its own spaceless position for eternity when others are outside and get on with life. Must be worse than an old fashioned wet Sunday in 1950's Britain.

30th Apr 2018, 11:35
Does Jesus want you for one? :}

30th Apr 2018, 11:45
'Mr Blue Sky, please tell us why..........you've stayed away for sooooooo long, where did we go wrong.......'

30th Apr 2018, 12:33
If you want to try it just get yourself trapped on the event horizon of a black hole.

Just another tau story......

30th Apr 2018, 12:41
All this talk of Sunbeams, and none of you car freaks has posted a picture of one. :=

30th Apr 2018, 12:48
Well, I'm not a car freak Sally, but I do admire this one:


30th Apr 2018, 13:21
One ponders on the possibility that there may only be one photon and it is everywhere at once. Space, time and life as we know it is a pure illusion that encapsulates all possibilities.

...or is it?

30th Apr 2018, 14:27
Does Jesus want you for one?
Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, and a fxxxxxxg fine sunbeam I'll be.

Mr Optimistic
30th Apr 2018, 16:50
Well as the universe is just a point, and photons are dimensionaless, which they must be for the zero size universe, suppose you can pack as many in there as you want, being bosons. Can't remember all that mode counting business but a point can't have axes so no modes. Hmm, photon must have finite size which must be the size of the universe so not exactly a point, or maybe a point with some uncertainty.

30th Apr 2018, 17:42

Feynman posited, more as a thought experiment than anything else, that there was only one electron bouncing backwards in time. When he and others then worked out what that would look like using quantum field theory - the result was identical to the positron.

Not it a feasible theory for the photon which is destroyed when it converted to electrical or chemical energy in a solar array or nature - or when 2 photons collide and produce two positron-electron pairs.

30th Apr 2018, 17:52
A photon walks into a hotel
The manager asks him if he has any luggage
The photon replies "No, I'm travelling light"

1st May 2018, 01:34
Does Jesus want you for one? :}
I remember that song - Sunday School, 1950s.

clark y
1st May 2018, 02:16
This subject has always intrigued me. I find the theories just a tad confusing as would a vast percentage of humanity. What I wonder about is how much of it is completely wrong. The maths quite often confirms the theories, but this doesn’t mean it is correct. String theory, M theory, multiverse, dark matter, varying amounts of extra dimensions, cats in boxes etc. We can make the math fit but how long did humans think the earth was at the centre of the universe (or flat and chemtrail covered) This would have been scientific fact for how many years and how many people would have been stoned or burnt at the stake for considering otherwise.

Everyone knows the answer is 42.

1st May 2018, 02:26
Sunbeam all cracked up.

1st May 2018, 13:29
...which is destroyed when it converted to electrical or chemical energy in a solar array or nature...I know. I've destroyed lots of the little blighters using my pair of deadly retinas. ;)

...although they may have all been the same one. :suspect:

Loose rivets
1st May 2018, 15:30
First master the Special Theory of Relativity. Then come back to the photon. Then go to the field hypothesis of the Double Slit Experiment. Master that concept because even if it's not correct, it will open your mind to an extraordinary way of looking at the structure of spacetime. Possibly.

See you later. I'll try to find the most wondrous way of looking at why time seems to alter if you're an observer in a different frame.

You may have to wait until Startreck has finished.

1st May 2018, 16:24
My theory of time is that it only exists in that slim slice of the present that you experience as each nanosecond ticks by in rhythm to your own beat..
That time is used to build a variable future that does not yet exist.
The past is lost to existence but bits and pieces are sometimes recorded by means lesser than living it.

1st May 2018, 16:24
Most of this is way over my head but just to point out that my wife says she wanted me for a Sunbeam, a red Alpine I was driving at the time.

1st May 2018, 17:03
WRT the hypothesis that there is only one photon, there are innumerable sources for light (fire is one) so the idea that one photon could be responsible for the initiation of all occurrences is somewhat implausible (IMO) - not to mention the infinite number of stars emitting light.

I have often wondered where light goes to when you switch it off . . .

1st May 2018, 17:55
If a bit of light hits the back of your eye and gets changed into an electrical charge, then what happens to the beam of light - is it gone and was it there at all?

1st May 2018, 18:18
A beam is like a train of photons, one behind another till the source is switched off. Yes the beam still exists if the source is extinguished - which is why we are looking at galaxies and stars on the due of the observable universe which ceased to exist billions of years of ago.

Each photon in the beam beam is change depending into energy when it hits you eye - and each will continue to be so unless you put a mirror in the way to deflect it into a new course to continue on its way - perhaps for another few billion years? A sobering thought.

1st May 2018, 18:26
How does one explain simultaneous viewing of light from a star by several people? Multiple photons?

Loose rivets
1st May 2018, 19:00
Funny thing about a photon hitting a mirror. The angle makes different things happen at quantum level. Like a photon going through any medium, reflection usually means the photon has been converted into raising the energy (shell) of an electron and then being re-emitted. The determination of which way it heads is very complex.

1st May 2018, 20:01
A comment to reflect upon - or perhaps refract......

India Four Two
1st May 2018, 20:41
At the suggestion of a “Rocker”* friend of mine, I offer the following:

Jesus wants me for on a sunbeam Sunbeam.


* Ex-member of the 59 Club and ex-Vincent owner, so I think he qualifies.

1st May 2018, 21:23
I must admit that the motorcycle was my first association with the word Sunbeam (even though my background is in motoring).

Loose rivets
1st May 2018, 23:59
Mmmm, the older members will have seen this before. Jesus very nearly got me on a Sunbeam. I've still got the scars. Anyway, after swerving to the point of getting the bike way above me on a 'Highsider', I pushed it away as I closed the throttle and listened to the noise of my skin being deposited on the road - until the bike hit the ground. I recall kicking at the bike as I scrabbled away to stop my bare scalp being kerbed. I am beyond grateful the kid that had just turned in front of me on a tiny bike escaped with a few grazes. However, I was in T shirt and jeans and on that day, no underpants. Being modest, I told the nurse I was okay because I didn't want her taking me jeans off.

Teenagers are allowed days with no underpants for reasons Ben Elton would understand.

It happened outside Holland on Sea Police station, and when I hammered on the door, the resident sergeant looked across the road and said, 'Oh, God'. I thought I was going to have to hold him up cos he'd gorn all white.

2nd May 2018, 04:30
Don't forget red shift and blue shift, which account for the point in the original post that the relative speed of two photons approaching one another is c and not 2c. The apparent loss of kinetic energy is "conserved" by a shifting of the frequency of the light - the mutally approaching photons will "see" each other as bluer, higher energy light.

The red shift of a part of the universe can be used to calculate the speed away from the observer (and thus the distance and age of any given part) and in fact the "background radiation" of the Big Bang discovered by Penzias and Wilson is red-shifted all the way into the microwave frequencies.

A photon traveeling through the universw ill 'see" a blue shift to approaching photons, a red shift to receding photons behind it (well actually, blackness, but observers travelling at almost the speed of light will see a red shift behind), and "normal" light coming in from the sides (simple relative velocity of c, with no shift).

It is a variety of the Doppler Shift we hear when a railroad whistle or ambulance siren approaches and then recedes after passing us.

How does one explain simultaneous viewing of light from a star by several people? Multiple photons?

Of course! The Sun (an average star) puts out around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 0 (1x10^45) photons every second - plenty to go around. ;)

2nd May 2018, 13:42
1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 0 (1x10^45) photons every second Or the same photon 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,00 0 (1x10^45) times. After all, what's in a second? ;)

Just a mischievous joke of course, but quantum mechanics reveals a level of weirdness in the universe that is beyond human understanding. Let's just have a bit of fun with it and wait until we die to find the answer.

2nd May 2018, 13:53
When I’m terminal I want them to put me in a sealed cardboard box with a cat - then I’ll never die.......

Loose rivets
2nd May 2018, 23:56
I'm not sure about that. You'll probably be alive and dead at the same time . . . until someone observes you and breaks down your (OH NO! I'm going to say it.) wave function.

Now I really hate myself.

Loose rivets
3rd May 2018, 00:54
The mods on Quora have been very kind to me. I'm not qualified to argue with Ivy league PhD's, but they let me have my say.

It's an odd forum, inasmuch as it has a dynamic post fluidity that's based on the Upvotes of readers. I don't like the way it breaks conversation but it's the only forum with highly qualified people giving their time to what to them must be fairly basic questions.

In the last few days I've found myself as answer number two on "Why does gravity have to be transmitted through particles when gravity isn't a force in general relativity?"

Slowly, slowly I'm prodding the real brains to look again at Spacetime Inflow - a drum I've been beating for 40 of the 50 years I've been interested in gravity.

I have beside me a letter from John Gribbin from a time when I thought I could write to the major magazines including Nature(cringe) and expect serious consideration of an outsider's ramblings. He was kind enough to write, and chat on the phone. His book, (Gribbin and White) 'Stephen Hawking, A Life in Science', opened my mind again after years of Aviation-think.

In recent years an American science forum expressly forbade my 'Theory development.'

Back to light. One topic often raised is why light seems to slow down in any medium other than the Vacuum of Space. (That spacetime is something with very specific characteristics, is the cornerstone of my hypotheses.) Erm, plural, because I take the inflow to also obviate the need for Dark Matter. Anyway, I digress. So unlike me. :rolleyes:

When Richard Feynman looked at the first atomic explosion with no goggles, confident the lorry's wind-shield would filter out all the high energy photons, he threw himself on the cab floor with a huge mauve blob on his vision. Now that's faith in one's science. The photon, some people would have you believe, raises the energy level in the nearest electron and is reborn as a new photon which is instantly travelling at the speed of light. Then it happens again, and so on. The problem with all this is the photon is too big - in the direction of travel - and by too big I mean an off-the-scale long disturbance of the electromagnetic field rather than the point particle it's all too easy to imagine hopping about in the glass' matrix. Why light slows down in glass attracted an answer that I had to read several times before realising I didn't really understand it.

Photon's in space? We gather information from light that's travelled well over 40 billion light years - in a universe that's 13.8 billion years old. The worrying thing to me is the number of bright people who concede the Universe might be infinite. That would mean there was another Loose rivets typing these exact words somewhere eles. Ha HA! Did they fall into the trap of misspelling else? Doesn't matter, there'll be another me that spelled it correctly a bit further on. And another. And an . . . Heck, I hate that concept.

One of the regular contributors protests when people try to explain an expanding universe by likening it to a balloon, or a raison pudding or anything, really. He insists on the vacuum being just that, but with very specific fields working the magic. I can't quite see the difference as long as there's a Spacetime that does just what it seems to be doing.

Then there's the confusion about the speed of light, c, and some kind of brick wall that stops anything from exceeding the Universe's speed limit. When folk are just getting the hang of the Special Theory of Relativity, some bod informs them, and me, that if you keep pouring the power into your spaceship, it'll keep going faster. There is nothing that'll put the brakes on. Aaaaaaaagh! Just when I was beginning to believe in a universal speed limit. Any bright souls out there that can, erm, illuminate that notion?

Ascend Charlie
3rd May 2018, 06:22
Ummm.. Loose, what about Tachyons, which travel faster than light? Will my black dog appear red when it runs away chasing a ball? And blue on its return? (Very fast dog).