Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The 'mass' of Moving Objects.

Yet another concept that puzzles me is the thought that it would take 'infinite energy' to accelerate a mass-bearing object to the speed of light, and that the mass of that object increases with its speed. We have to be careful in our examinations here, because examining the behaviour of objects between themselves is not at all the same as observing the physics of an object itself. According to relativity, every state of reference has equal value. That is to say any object travelling at any 'speed' can be at a state of rest; whether one object is 'moving' or not (is irrelevant) only comes into question if it is compared to another.

A star all alone in space will shed its light at speeds only relative to itself; without anyone to observe it, it would have no idea (combustion, fusion, etc) that it is moving. The same goes for its gravitational force and mass. If somehow we could push and pull the star to different speeds, no matter what point we stopped our alterations and left the star to its own devices, it would continue as before, standing seemingly still and alone in space. No matter at what 'speed' the star was travelling, its mass would remain the same - the force we needed to move it was expended in moving the star, no energy given to the star itself.

Now, another star enters the picture, hurtling towards the first. How would we calculate what will happen when the stars collide? It his here that the idea of 'mass' becomes confusing, and the word 'inertia' comes to mind. Yet if the mass of each object is the calculated same, from where comes the energy created when the two giants collide?

It was perhaps a bad idea to use stars as an example; one has both to calculate the energy contained within the star's atoms themselves, as well as relative velocity. Let's go instead to the opposite end of the spectrum and compare the energies contained in two converging light waves.

The speed of light, c, is indeed a constant, and I am persuaded that it should be a yardstick by which to measure the interactivity of all energy - I especially like the idea of giving it the constant of 1. Anyhow, an electromagnetic wave (always travelling at light speed relative to itself) will have an x amount of energy (its frequency) - should we assume that they are following 'normal' patterns (within the realm of the laws we have created until today), they both should be travelling at c, and their interaction should be relatively easy to predict. Not much would happen between two photons, but let's compare their energies relative to each other.

Say two photons were zipping in opposite directions of, say, 10¹⁸mhz (x-rays). Since their direction is opposing, it would seem to one photon that the other was travelling by at, not only twice its speed, but twice its frequency. Photons have no polarity, as far as I know, so there is little chance of them annihilating each other - I used photons just for the speed/frequency comparison example.

Imagine then the force between two mass-bearing objects, say, electrons - but the math gets fuzzier here when we consider that we have to calculate the 'kinetic force' for each object (in my opinion, things would be simpler if we calculated one 'k' value between the two), and the laws seem to change when speeds near light speed c. Anyhow, you get the picture. Add into the equation the force needed to break each particle (when we get up the scale to nuclei and individual hadrons) and things get really complicated.

I'd like to stay at the electromagnetic wave level for an instant, and go back to my earlier idea about what happens when a lightwave's amplitude nears its forward momentum. Exactly how much energy is contained within an electron? Imagine that it is in fact a wave pattern itself - orbital, or stagnant? - any electromagnetic wave interaction with it would amplify its (already enormous) frequency, but a photon (as far as I know) wouldn't have the power to 'break' it (unless the photon was travelling at a speed superior to light speed? But I digress) - already modern physics has concrete proof that a photon will indeed 'excite' an electron into a higher orbit.

So what, again, of quarks, and why is their 'charge' (-1/3 and 2/3 for 'down' quarks and 'up' quarks respectively) at odds with electrons (which have a -1 charge), and why do quarks bind into hadrons (two 'up' quarks and one 'down' quark for a proton, the opposite for a Neutron), and why do 'down' quarks have more 'mass' (despite their 'puny' -1/3 charge) ...and what is that particle 'charge'? Are positive elementary particles circular waveforms orbiting 'forward' (at super-high frequencies) in one (clockwise?) direction, and negative particles the same in the opposite direction? How would such waveforms, if they existed, interact? What if gravity was the force maintaining an electromagnetic wave to its path, wouldn't it be much greater (if not amplified) when maintained in a circular path, and could magnetism simply be an 'amplified gravity' caused by the synchronisation of these waves? If everything were interacting waveforms, that would explain so much about the binding and energy levels of the elementary particles known to us. I have so many ideas and questions remaining.

Perceptions of Light, Time Dilation (again).

I'm still puzzling over our seemingly self-imposed light-speed limitation. In an earlier post I mentioned the Victorian-era 'ether' concept, since disproven, that the entire universe was filled with a mysterious substance that limited the speed at which matter (including light) could travel. This theory (along with my 'perfect matter' idea) is officially in the trash can, but if there is no 'ether', how can we maintain that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light? The limiting factor seems to be in the notion of time and 'mass increase' - but, as I mentioned earlier, it is quite possible to leave time out of the question, and even any equation, for observing physical behavioural patterns concerning light; as for mass, I will try to deal with that in a later post.

Before I get there, I'd like to ask (myself) a few more questions on light-speed, namely concerning Einstein's theory and the findings of Hubble. Einstein's relativity showed that the universe was rapidly expanding (although he himself didn't believe it), but Hubble proved it by measuring the spectrum map of light from different galaxies; Hubble recorded marked 'spectrum shifts' towards the red for the light of galaxies moving away from us, and shifts towards blue for those nearing us. Hubble's findings at first sight follow rules similar to Doppler's - a sound from a source moving towards a listener through air sounds at a higher pitch, and the sound moving away sounds lower - but here may be another (additional) explanation for the shift in the light emissions of different galaxies.

It is a known fact that the speed of light, c, is indeed a constant; it travels at the same speed no matter the frequency of its wave. My main nagging question concerns the relation between a light wave's 'speed' and the object that emits it: in a situation where a light wave's source is 'at rest' (its 'speed' is irrelevant in the absence of any other object, it is 'relative' only unto itself), if indeed there is no 'ether', shouldn't the light's speed remain constant (relative) to its source? Why do scientists insist that, when we add an observer into the equation, that the speed of a light wave (relative to its source) cannot be added/subtracted from the speed of the light source relative to the observer?

Time dilation can be inferred from the observed fact of the constancy of the speed of light in all reference frames.
This constancy of the speed of light means, counter to intuition, that speeds of material objects and light are not additive. It is not possible to make the speed of light appear faster by approaching at speed towards the material source that is emitting light. It is not possible to make the speed of light appear slower by receding from the source at speed.
"Time Dilation",, 2011-02-02

It is the "all" in "all reference frames" that bothers me. "All" reference frames... known to us thus far? Measurable by us, again, thus far? I left the second half of the quote in place for context: it just shows that, once it is emitted, light does remain at a constant speed, but I do question the effect of one's movement relative to a light source, namely in our perception of the light's frequency. I'd like to imagine for a second that light can travel faster than 'itself' (relative to 'our' frame of reference), and revisit two concepts (one mentioned above) commonly referenced in discussions on relativity.

Firstly, the above 'Doppler effect': what if, in addition to the red/blue shift caused by the (seeming) increase in frequency caused by the relative velocity between the star and the observer, an 'accelerated speed of light' did figure into the equation? Here on earth, sound is limited in velocity (by our atmosphere, a constant between the source and the observer), but if there indeed is no 'limiting ether' in space, the speed of a light source should figure in the speed of the light it emits (relative to the observer). Were this true, the spectrum shift from an approaching star would be doubly amplified, once by the source's motion relative to the wavelength of its light, and again by the speed at which it was travelling. Imagine a star travelling towards us that emits one burst of light energy in our direction. If the speed of its light is added to the speed of light itself, the frequency of the approaching beam will seem, from the observer's point of view, to be more compact (higher) than would be if both the source and observer were at a state of rest relative to each other; this also would cause a shift in the same direction as the Doppler effect, a shift that could perhaps even be multiplied by the same.

Secondly, time dilation was supposedly proven by an experiment in which the level of cosmic ray muon radiation was measured at the top of a mountain, then at a much lesser altitude; muons decay rapidly in the earth's atmosphere, yet many more made it to lower altitude than expected, and this was attributed to time dilation (time was 'slower' for the almost-light-speed travelling muons), but what if the muons, shot out from massive explosions perhaps the origin of our universe, were in fact travelling faster than light upon their arrival to earth?