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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yesterday's discovery

Arthur M. Young excerpts
An ordinary object can be thought of as a carrier of momentum, or energy, which it can impart to another object. A hammer striking a nail exerts a force which drives the nail; a bowling ball conveys energy which knocks over the pins. In both cases, the hammer and the bowling ball remain after the work is done. With light, however, its transport of energy from one point to another leaves no residue. Light is pure action, unattached to any object, like the smile without the cat.

This light energy is everywhere, filling the room, filling all space, connecting everything with everything else. It includes much more than the light we see by, for all exchange of energy between atoms and molecules is some form of what used to be called electromagnetic energy, which extends over a vast spectrum and would be better named interaction. Visible light covers just one octave in that spectrum.

Let us simply note one thing: that there is only one exception to the exclusion of purpose from science, and this exception is light, which these several scientists have seen fit to regard as having a purposive behavior. Let us also note that the purposiveness is associated with that aspect of light known as the principle of action (or least action).

Importance of Planck's Discovery

That Action Comes in Wholes

What did Planck add to this principle of action that was not already present in the ideas of Leibniz? It was the notion that action comes in quanta or wholes, and that this unit is constant. Note that despite the tendency to refer to energy as quantized — a habit which even good physicists are given to — it is not energy but action that comes in wholes.

And here is what blew my mind into awe

But where does this energy (for the skater) come from? It is produced by the skater in pulling in his arms against centrifugal force — and would be greater if the skater held weights in his hands. Of course, with the skater there is a limit to the rate of spin or the energy he can store in this way because he can pull his arms in only so far — but the photon, having no bulk, can shrink any amount. It follows that a single photon can store unlimited energy by getting smaller!

This is one of the most surprising findings of quantum physics — that the smaller the photon, the more energy it contains. It is a reminder of the great difference between the world of light and the world of matter.

World of light

No time, space, charge, or mass.

Energy increases as size (wavelength) is reduced.

Constant velocity; no rest.

World of matter

Time, space, charge and mass.

Energy (mass) decreases as size is reduced.

Any velocity less than the speed of light.