Wednesday, 26 January 2011

c : an obstacle of our own conception?

I'm tempted to toss my 'perfect matter' concept into the trash. After further reading, it seems my idea was just an embellished version of the Victorian-era "ether" concept: light can only move so fast, no matter where it is, because it is limited by an omnipresent 'substance'. Einstein theorised that there is no 'ether', and scientific experiments are beginning to prove him right. So I'm going to put 'perfect matter' to the side for now and play with the behaviour of light in an ether-less environment.

I must admit that it was difficult to wrap my layman head around the idea of 'no barriers'. My reading (and watching, thanks to an online friend of mine who will know who he is should he read this) involved many presentations involving metre sticks, clocks, pythagorean triangulation and space travel - or in other words, 'time dilation'. I get the concept, but there's something about the theory's point of view, if not its motivation, that bothers me.

The base of Einstein's concept is: light always travels at the same speed relative to the observer. He explained his theory, in a thought experiment sometimes called "Einstein's mirror", by imagining himself in a train travelling at a speed of light while looking at a mirror: would he see a reflection? His conclusion was 'yes'.

The most common presentation explaining relativity I saw was one involving two parallel mirrors and the behaviour of light between them if one was moving. True, the beam of light between the originating mirror at its beginning state, the 'immobile' mirror and the originating mirror at its end state is 'longer' than a line between two immobile mirrors, but scientists have seemed to conclude that, since there is no speed faster than light, it must be time that is changing. Something bothers me about this - to no end.

It was the 'speed relative to the viewer' part that intrigued me the most, and I went to bed with my thoughts full of spaceships, trains and mirrors. If I were (in bed) watching Einstein speeding away from me on a light-speed travelling train with a mirror in front of his face, with himself still able to see his own reflection because light was being reflected relative to his own position and speed, what would be the speed of his reflection according to me? My repeated conclusion was: his reflection, at least in the light being sent towards his mirror, would have to be travelling twice the speed of light. But nothing can travel faster than the speed of light (according to 'our' point of origin), right? If relativity really does hold true, wrong.

If I reduce the Einstein mirror example to two stars hurtling away from each other at light speed (which one is 'still' is irrelevant), the photons emitted from opposing sides of the stars at any given point of time would be travelling three times the speed of light relative to each other. Yet modern physics insists on adding time into the equation, and tells us that it is time that is changing, not the light speed. Either I am missing something, or there is so much wrong with this.

The obstacle we are facing is our own concept of 'light speed' and use of 'light year' in our calculations. If light is indeed an independent electromagnetic wave that always travels at the same speed from its point of origin, and if that 'point of origin' can be travelling at any speed at all, what is there to say that travel of light speed 'is not possible'? The problem here is that although we have no measure above the speed of light with which to compare things, that doesn't mean that anything beyond the limit of our measure can't exist. From our present point of observation, in a universe that originated most probably at the same point in time, we just can't see it, or haven't seen it yet.

To take this thought to its full extent, imagine a space ship accelerating away from earth (to some unknown destination). From a point of rest near earth, imagine that it maintains a continued state of acceleration (let's leave time out of the equation for now) and that it achieves the speed of light. Now, let's imagine the environment in and around that spacecraft at that precise point in time.

First off, what is that 'speed of light' velocity the spaceship is at? That 'speed' is measured relative to its, or our own, point of rest. If relativity holds true, and there is no limiting 'ether', any physical phenomena created by that spaceship at that speed would have that speed and position as its point of origin; for the calculation of any physical occurrences on that spacecraft, our position or point of reference doesn't matter to any equation of events onboard. A nuclear reaction on that spaceship would occur exactly in the same way as it would on earth (if the spaceship somehow had a 'false gravity' equalling earths), and any outward-going force, such as thrust (into a vacuum), should react in the same way at its speed as it would in ours. All anyone onboard would feel is the force of the ship's acceleration - in fact, without any point of reference to see outside of the ship's porthole, they would have no idea at all about the speed at which they were travelling; should the ship shut down its engines, with no drag to slow it down, it would maintain its 'velocity' (in relation to 'us'), yet it would seem to those onboard that the ship was at a total standstill. If the core idea behind relativity holds true, it can't be any other way.

Our problem today is that we are using the speed of light as a barrier in addition to its use as a unit of measure. Just because we have not yet been able to accelerate any object near/past the speed of light doesn't mean it's not possible; once we do make it there, any electromagnetic wave phenomena we create at that velocity will occur, if we still insist on using ourselves as a point of reference, at twice the speed of light in the direction away from us.

The reason we remain stuck in this reasoning is probably a) the universe itself has a single point of origin (the Big Bang), and everything we see is 'relative' to that moment; b) all the universe's mass, and what little of it we have been able to move ourselves, moves at a speed only a fraction that of the speed of light. Still, according to relativity, the light shining forward from a projected "flashlight bullet" should travel at a velocity to its own (light speed) plus the bullet's velocity at the time it was emitted. Even a bullet's speed is minuscule compared to that of light: I wonder if today we have the tools to test this sort of theory.

So, to sum up: just because we ourselves are unable to see or measure any velocity above or relatively close to the speed of light (velocities created outside our, or the big bang's, point of reference), doesn't mean that nothing beyond hasn't, won't, or can't, occur. I don't yet understand the motivation behind the mathematical acrobatics of 'time dilation' just to preserve a threshold at/below the speed of light; were we to maintain time as a constant in both sides of its equation, or remove it entirely, the result would be a speed faster than the speed of light - or the speed of light plus the 'terminal speed' of the mirror capturing the returning light ray, and I don't see anything wrong with this.

'Bending time' is much like trying to measure a rod with a shorter string by bending it; if the string is our largest known velocity (the speed of light) and the rod the real velocity, than that rod has a velocity is greater than any we know or greater than any we can measurably create today, and I don't see any reason why we can't just accept this.

Yet this is not an easy subject, and I am still reading into it.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Further thought on 'electromagnetic' energy waves.

I'm not so sure about the "magnetic" in the term "electromagnetic wave". For sure an energy wave is interacting with something that maintains its oscillating path.

Bloody hell. I was just reading up on the use of the electron-volt scale (meV, keV, MeV, GeV, etc) and wondering why the same was used to describe the mass of quarks, when I came across this:
By mass-energy equivalence, the electron volt is also a unit of mass. It is common in particle physics, where mass and energy are often interchanged, to use eV/c2, where c is the speed of light in a vacuum (from E = mc2). Even more common is to use a system of natural units with c set to 1 (hence, E = m), and simply use eV as a unit of mass. 
"Electronvolt",, 2011-01-25
The speed of light (through a vacuum) is so constant that it would be convenient (and probably more practical) to just set it to 1. Was this just for convenience that this reduction was devised (see natural units),  or are some already persuaded that energy is mass? E=m has been my entire line of thought in this post and its predecessor. Still, E=m does not describe the gravitational properties of a fundamental element.

Getting back to energy waves, what intrigues me most there is their oscillation - there are obviously two opposing elements at work here, otherwise energy would travel in a straight line (or not travel at all). What also intrigues me is that, no matter the energy level of a wave, the force opposing it is always exactly that of the energy transmitted. Could the opposition/attraction in energy waves be the very source of gravity itself?

The notion of "perfect matter" has its uses here as well. Imagine it as an element that would need an enormous amount of energy to overcome/affect/transform; its first reaction against any force against it would be to push back with equal force (in order to regain its initial 'perfect' state). This would describe the 'magnetic' in the behaviour of electromagnetic waves quite nicely. But I digress - it is a bit hard for me to let go of that idea after entertaining it for so long.

In my present line of thinking, it doesn't really matter what form the 'push' force has (we need only retain the energy of the perfectly visible photon), it is only the 'push/pull' phenomenon itself. If I could apply the degree/frequency of an energy wave's oscillation to the laws of gravity, we see some similarities: lower-frequency waves are much longer and higher than higher-frequency ones, or in other words, the force of interaction (push/pull) is lower - think the gravitational effect two distant planets have on each other, the greater the distance (and smaller the mass), the lower the effect and the longer it takes for the other to react in any noticeable way.

Now, if the vertical push/pull of a wave really was gravity, we can imagine that the gravitational force (always across the axis of the path of travel) will be extremely low - but what happens when an energy wave increases in frequency/energy? An increasingly energetic push/pull occurs many more times along a shorter length of axis.

Yet all across the spectrum, the forward momentum of a wave remains the same - the speed of light, or c.  This brings me to my next question: what would happen if the frequency of an energy wave get so high that its lateral momentum nears/meets/exceeds its forward momentum? Could the cross-axis push/pull begin to affect/overcome an energy wave's forward momentum, making it slow, stop, or... begin to loop?

Monday, 24 January 2011

Is ~everything~ light?

Something bugged me about my idea that something could go ~faster~ than the speed of light. If there is one constant in our universe, it's that speed; all energy waves, or 'light', no matter what frequency, travel with the same forward momentum through a vacuum.

This got me to thinking: what would happen if an energy wave's frequency got to a point so high that its lateral movement exceeded its forward motion? Could this energy level be the 'point of creation' of mass? Think about watching a wave on an oscilloscope, then turning the frequency knob to the right: eventually the wave's up and down motion will become indistinguishable from its lateral flow, and the 'wave' will become a solid white (green) bar. Perhaps the 'frequency = speed of light' mass-creating transition point is a bit convenient, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if things were in fact that simple.

This would explain a lot of things, namely the enormous amount of energy contained in atoms (and the enormous amount of energy it takes to fuse or dissemble them). I can also see the beginnings of an explanation of gravity and charge there; could the extreme oscillation of a wave be a source of attraction to others similar to it, and could the 'timing' of the wave explain its 'polarity'? Even this fits in with wave behaviour: opposing waves cancel each other, as do oppositely-charged similar elements such as positrons and electrons. And if indeed a mass-containing object's core energy oscillation is enormous, a 'normal' wave (such as a photon) would indeed affect it but not alter it entirely. Also, could it be that magnetism and gravity are the same thing, and that magnetism is simply an 'amplified gravity' caused by the synchronisation of every core energy wave contained in any magnetic object?

This kind of throws my 'perfect matter' theory into the dustbin, yet it is possible that 'perfect matter' does exist as a simple carrier for energy waves.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

E=mc²: a sum of parts.

Einstein's theory of relativity, E=mc², sums up quite nicely the interoperativity of all elements known to us, but I am persuaded that, in light of the missing 'god particle', they will one day be regrouped into one side of an equation describing the creation and behaviour of mass.

I can sum up all my past blogs on the subject into this: it takes a certain amount of energy, an energy beyond the speed of light, to transform "perfect matter" into a form with mass, or a form visible to us. Any energy short of the speed of light remains just that, energy. This would explain why light has a maximum speed, the existence (and 'weight') of dark matter, and why light can travel through a vacuum: in reality, light (energy), if it is not strong enough to affect the perfect matter, will simply 'surf' through it (like light waves through water, to bring the model down to a lower scale). Light (energy) in our present theories is affected by gravity, but I am persuaded that it is actually 'perfect matter' that is affected by gravity: it is the difference in its density that deviates an energy path, again much like light bends when travelling between air and water.

Energy, or 'charge', has a 'path' - it will travel freely unless blocked by (absorbed by) an object with mass. We know already that it is possible to create elements with a negative charge (or charged with energy on an opposite path), and should opposingly-charged elements meet each other, both will disappear completely. What's left over? I am persuaded that opposingly-charged elements, when meeting, 'trade' their energies and become, once again, perfect matter. I think for this to happen the energies of both elements must be equal in opposing directions.

It would make perfect sense that the beginning of our universe was a huge explosion of energy above the speed of light in all directions (charges); once the mass was created, and the energy of the explosion dropped below mass-creating levels, any energy left over from the explosion would be absorbed by mass-containing elements. The rest is consequential: positively-charged elements would be attracted to negatively-charged elements; if their charges were equally opposed, they would annihilate each other, and if their charges weren't equal, they would bind (in a 'stable' inter-annihilation struggle). It wouldn't surprise me if electrons were simply negatively-charged quarks 'left over' from this initial binding.

The question of charge also brings, once again, dimensions into question.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Olbermann's departure from MSNBC: one more Step towards Stupid.

Of course I was surprised and dismayed this morning to hear MSNBC's Keith Olbermann announce that his Friday show would be the last one. I sometimes found him to be a bit over-the-top on some subjects and comments, but he is one of few American journalists remaining today who hold true to the principles of journalism - relating fact-based (not opinion-based) stories in an objective a way as possible. He, like MSNBC's other leading journalists, judged acts at their face value, and only then by their motivations, and would pull no punches for any politician, right or left, if his/her actions were worthy of criticism - and exactly the same in the opposite direction for any action worthy of praise. This is how journalism should be, and Mr. Olbermann is (was?) one of the rational world's last bastions against the immature screeching, whining and lying tactics used by today's political right.

I remember, after George W. Bush's 2004 re-election, an English tabloid headline querying its readers: "Is more than half the U.S. completely stupid?". I don't agree, but I can observe that the more strident and misleading opinions get about just as much airtime as fact, and that the more irrational and extreme the views of a voter, the higher the possibility that he will turn up at the polls. Yet as of today we have one less mainstream figure providing fact to the masses - as fact - and convince them to decide for themselves. Billo, Beck, Rush and Breitbart must be creaming their jeans about now at the thought of a future where even the wildest lies will go uncontested.

The right-wing pundits I mention above, unlike their viewers/listeners, cannot claim the innocence of pure stupidity. At best, they can plead guilty to one of two crimes: they can a) claim purposeful ignorance - ignorance of the true obstacles confronting the majority of the U.S.' population today (already-over-demanding job positions disappearing overseas, lack of even basic health-care for some) because of their already-prosperous position, and promoting other prosperous pundits/politicians/organisations 'like themselves', or b) be corporate-serving corporate-riches-seeking stooges spreading corporate-enriching lies to the very same knowingly-ignorant populace that is enriching the same. Beck and Breitbart are of the latter category - fully aware of their actions and the damages they cause - and in my mind are humans of the most despicable sort - those who wilfully impede and destroy the very essence of what makes us human: fact-(science-)based education and rationality.

Humans think, animals 'feel'. Thinking humans have less tendency to resort to vitriol and violence, a fact that is both true common knowledge and available everywhere, and are less likely to react with the same tactics the same. Yet the trend for today's American public seems to be pundits and politicians, backed by corporations intent on spreading a 'feeling' message to a public remaining dependant upon them because their thoughtless 'feeling' of fear or comfort, behaving in belligerent and irrational manner quite unsuited to a thinking human being. In my mind, watching American politics is like watching a grade-school play-yard: the bullies win out over 'the wimps' in the beginning, but settle down when they are obliged to compete in situations that require rational thought; but what if the U.S.' richest denizens' goal was to create and fund wave after wave of bullies, and make sure the stage was permanently set in a way where no rational thought was 'required' and could never compete? Keith Olbermann was like that big kid a couple grades up who would protect any younger kid he thought 'cool' against gratuitous persecution - and we're going to miss him dearly.

Let's hope Mr. Olbermann finds another post from where he can spread his arguably-over-the-top manner in his unarguably fact-oriented way. I also hope that Mr. Olbermann's departure won't weaken the positions of his co-journalists Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow and recently-arrived Lawrence O'Donnell, three more rational voices much-needed by the U.S. public today.