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> Faster than the speed of light?, koans and the light 'sonic boom'
johnno6626
  Posted: Feb 17 2005, 09:48 AM


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Whilst reading up on the BaBar experiment at CERN i came across 'Cherenkov radiation', where kaons appear to travel faster than the speed of light and a the light equivilant of sonic boom is witnessed.

My question is: are they really doing travelling that fast or is there some other quantum explaination. I have always been told that nothing can travel faster than the light, and Einstein even wondered whether this was going into the realms of time travel.

I have also heard of other experiments where waves seem to travel faster than light under certain conditions.

Could someone please set me straight?
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ap2
  Posted: Feb 17 2005, 10:03 AM


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The impossibility of something faster than light

used to be the hottest topic at PhysOrg wink.gif
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dannychrastina
Posted: Feb 17 2005, 01:20 PM


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The speed of light in vacuum is c (2.99792458x10^8 m/s) and nothing can travel faster than that. However, the speed of light in water for example is "only" about 2.3x10^8 m/s (the refractive index of water being about 1.33 for visible light.) So if a particle is travelling faster than 2.3x10^8 m/s (but slower than c) through water, it is technically travelling faster than light would in that medium and this causes Cherenkov radiation to be emitted.

The refractive index is really a macroscopic approximation which hides all the complicated stuff going on at the quantum electrodynamical level, where the electric field of the light is interacting with polarizable molecules...
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rpenner
Posted: Feb 17 2005, 03:33 PM


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Justa couple links on Detection of Neutrinos and Cherenkov Radiation and Applications.

I first saw Cherenkov radiation for myself in a 1996-1998 visit to a TRIGA "swimming-pool-type" nuclear reactor. It's a very, very beautiful and peaceful glow. Swimming in the pool is not recommended.


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gonegahgah
Posted: Feb 18 2005, 10:41 AM


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Doesn't the "throwing a ball up on a train principle" also apply to light?

If you throw a ball up on a train while it is moving it will come straight back down into your hand. If you follow the motion of the ball while standing outside the train it will appear to travel forward as it rises and descends. Even though to the person inside the train the ball goes straight up and down, to the person standing still outside it appears to also be travelling forward with the speed of the train.

Likewise for light, if the source (torch for example) is on a moving object (Earth for example) then won't it have the speed of the source added to it (if pointed in the direction of travel?

I have a feeling that pointing the light in the direction of travel while travelling makes the light travel at its normal relative speed plus the speed of travel. To the person standing still and not travelling the light will appear to travel faster than the "speed of light".

Now perhaps a call for any volunteers quick enough to observe this light example for me wink.gif

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WaterBreath
Posted: Feb 18 2005, 03:05 PM


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gonegahgah:

This isn't a knock, but I'm guessing you have looked into this stuff out of curiosity, rather than learning it in school. Which is actually really cool, in my opinion. The reason I bring it up is that, from what I've seen, the scenario you described is one of the most common thought experiments used by professors to discuss the topic.

For us, the scenario was described, then we were told it was wrong, because we do know to a certain degree of certainty that light travels the same speed, regardless of the speed of the observer. Keepining in mind that thought, let's run through the experiment again.

The person (A) on the train, moving constant speed, is in a frame of reference where he does not appear to himself to be moving. So the light from the torch in has hand, also moving, does not need to travel faster than the speed of light to go up, hit a mirror and come back down to the torch. Because in that frame of reference, there is no forward motion.

To the observer on the ground (B), however, there is motion. So, what B sees is the light leave the torch travelling at an angle to go forward and hit the mirror, then back down at the mirror angle. (Yes, we're imagining that the light is visible from the side, much like a ball would be.) So the distance that the light travels is longer. It appears to B to be travelling at the same speed as it appears to A. But to B it appeast to be crossing more distance, and so it appears to B to take longer to get there.

So whenever you think the speed of light should be changing, remember that it doesn't. It can't. Something else must be changing. The things that can change are the perception of distance, mass, and elapsed time. Also remember that the perceptions affects macroscopic observations of each observer, such as the distance travelled, the time that it takes to travel the distance, the apparent length of things in another frame of reference, and the wavelength of light that was emitted by an object in a different frame of reference. These things all can vary between the moving observer and the stationary observer. But it doesn't matter that the ovservations in different frames are inconsistent. All that matters is that things are consistent within one frame of reference.
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gonegahgah
Posted: Feb 20 2005, 01:32 PM


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WaterBreath:

Thanks for your reply.

I have to admit that I am having thoughts that light can move at different relative speeds. Please let me explain more.

To begin though let me look at what a constant speed of light would suggest. If this is the fact then a torch moving at the "speed of light" pointed in the direction of travel would be travelling as fast as the light it is generating. This could mean that the wave never has a chance to leave its source as the source would always be catching up with it.

I would possibly suggest that this is incorrect. This is why...

One of the key phrases I've used in the last paragraph is that "light is generated". I have this feeling that light is a physical object like all other things and is subject to the inertial effects of physics like all other objects.

To this end if you have a planet moving through space and propel a rocket from the planet in the direction of travel then the rocket is going to propel from that planet. To the bus stop that the planet is passing the rocket will appear to be moving at the speed of the planet plus the speed it is rising from the planet (I know rockets don't go straight up but just supposing).

Now lets suppose the light is being generated from the surface of the planet in the direction of travel. The atoms that create the light are moving at the speed of the planet. The light they generate is a physical object and is generated by and propels from those atoms at the speed the planet is moving. So again the bus stop sees the light travelling at the speed of the planet going past plus the speed of light.

To my mind to say that light isn't affected by the inertial speed of its generator is to say that light exists outside the physical realm when all other objects propelled from a moving object are imparted with the additional speed of the object they are being propelled from. This is why cricketers get a run up when they bowl so that they can bowl faster. The cricket ball gains extra speed by being propelled from a moving object.

I have a feeling that light may comply with the physics of inertia. Just like the rocket I don't think the light says "hang on your moving too fast I'll just back off to my normal speed". I just have this feeling that light is propelled (because it is generated) from the moving filament with the speed of that filament plus its speed of projection.


Here is my reply to Guest on another thread:

Thanks for your reply Guest

QUOTE
The theory of relativity has as one of it's main points that no matter how you move - direction or speed-wise - you will always measure the speed of light hitting you to be exactly the constant c (approx 3.00e8 m/s).


Okay, this is something that I am questioning in my post.

QUOTE
This is a paradox, that however is heavily backed by scientific evidence. If we measure the speed of light from a source traveling 2.00e8 m/s away from us we will still measure the speed to be exactly c. However, the wavelength will have changed, the so-called redshift effect.


I don't agree that the wavelength has changed. It is the same wave length as when it left it's galaxy. But because we are moving slower than the source (i.e. the gap is growing) then we see a stretched out wave.

If we were moving the same speed as the source galaxy the wave would not be stretched out. It would appear to be the same wave at both ends.

It is us that is affecting the length of the wave. It doesn't stretch out by itself along the way. We are running into the light wave slower then it was sent and receive it over a longer period of time with the effect that it is stretched out to us.

This works exactly the same when we are moving faster than another galaxy. The light it sends out travels at its wavelength and because we are running away it takes longer to get to us and is again received over a longer period of time with the effect that it is stretched out to us. And hence the so called doppler effect on light.


To me these are all examples to illustrate that light moves at relative speed.

I am beginning to feel that there is no such barrier as the speed of light. Instead light may in fact be subject to inertia like all other physical objects.

When they talk about photons I don't think that they would talk about them as being of a particular set physical size like atoms. I am beginning to feel that photons have something akin to a shape that varies in height and length. I feel that this is the main culprit that distorts our perception of light having various speeds.

Light is a wave and like all waves you can not measure its speed by observing the passing of the wave through one point (like our eyes seeing the light as redder). You have to see how long a single trough travels through a distance. A simpler way is to see how fast the leading edge of the wave travels from source to reception. This will give you the speed of the wave.

Let me propose some fictional experiments that may suggest that what I am saying is true...

In all the experiments below the distance between poinst L and R are the same. Points L0 and R0 may be starting points in various experiments below:
i.e. L0---L----------------------------------R---R0

Experiment 1
You have a fixed laser at one end at point L and a fixed receptor at the other end at point R.
The laser is fired towards the receptor.
You record how long it took the laser light to hit the receptor. ie. T1 = ?

Experiment 2
You have a fixed laser at one end at point L and a moving receptor at the other end at point R0.
The moving receptor moves towards the laser at high velocity.
At the same time the moving receptor passes point R the laser is fired towards the receptor from point L.
You record how long it took the laser light to hit the receptor. ie. T2 = ?

I think that you would agree that because the receptor is moving towards the laser that the light will hit sooner ie. T2 < T1.

Now here's the important third experiment. If it doesn't test true then my idea is lost.

Experiment 3
You have a moving laser at one end at point L0 and a fixed receptor at the other end at point R.
The moving laser moves towards the receptor at high velocity.
At the time the laser passes point L it is fired towards the receptor which is at point R.
You record how long it took the laser light to hit the receptor. ie. T3 = ?

Now this is the jump. The receptor hasn't moved. But I think that that the light will still possibly hit the receptor sooner than in experiment 1 ie. T3 < T1. I would even suggest that T2 = T3 if the velocity of the receptor in experiment 2 was the same as the velocity of the laser in experiment 3.

I think these experiments may need to be done in a vacuum.

Have any such experiments been done?
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rpenner
Posted: Feb 20 2005, 06:18 PM


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QUOTE (gonegahgah @ Feb 20 2005, 01:32 PM)
Experiment 1
You have a fixed laser at one end at point L and a fixed receptor at the other end at point R.
The laser is fired towards the receptor.
You record how long it took the laser light to hit the receptor. ie. T1 = ?

Experiment 2
You have a fixed laser at one end at point L and a moving receptor at the other end at point R0.
The moving receptor moves towards the laser at high velocity.
At the same time the moving receptor passes point R the laser is fired towards the receptor from point L.
You record how long it took the laser light to hit the receptor. ie. T2 = ?

I think that you would agree that because the receptor is moving towards the laser that the light will hit sooner ie. T2 < T1.

Now here's the important third experiment. If it doesn't test true then my idea is lost.

Experiment 3
You have a moving laser at one end at point L0 and a fixed receptor at the other end at point R.
The moving laser moves towards the receptor at high velocity.
At the time the laser passes point L it is fired towards the receptor which is at point R.
You record how long it took the laser light to hit the receptor. ie. T3 = ?

Now this is the jump. The receptor hasn't moved. But I think that that the light will still possibly hit the receptor sooner than in experiment 1 ie. T3 < T1. I would even suggest that T2 = T3 if the velocity of the receptor in experiment 2 was the same as the velocity of the laser in experiment 3.

Experiment 1 is just measuring the speed of light in the laboratory.

Experiment 2 is done all the time by astronomers. The Earth moves around the sun and if the speed of light differed by out movement, then stellar abberation would relate to the arc tangent of the ration of our velocity v, to the speed of light, c. It instead seems to relate to the arc sin of the ratio, which is the prediction of SR.

Experiment 3 was done in the 60's with light emitted by the electromagnetic decay of neutral pions. The pions were moving at 0.2 times the speed of light and the speed of light was measured.


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WaterBreath
Posted: Feb 20 2005, 06:38 PM


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gonegahgah:

Well, I'm not really sure exactly how to respond to your questions. My previous answer was given in the context of relativity. You seem, however, to be arguing that relativity is wrong, so obviously any answer I give in that context isn't going to satisfy, but I will do my best.

Remember that the constancy of the speed of light is not the only premise of relativity. There is also the increase in energy required for each incremental acceleration of speed, which leads to the conclusion that nothing can accelerate to light speed. Thus your torch scenario, by relativity, is impossible. The torch can't travel at the speed of light, so the results of such a scenario are not meaningful or consequential in the context of relativity.

QUOTE
I have a feeling that light may comply with the physics of inertia.

It does. The momentum of a photon is embodied by the following equation:
CODE
p = h/lambda

where h is the planck constant, and lambda is the wavelength of the photon. When a photon bumps into another particle without being absorbed, some momentum is transferred between the photon and that particle. It changes the photon's wavelength (thus also changing the frequency, and energy), and affects the velocity of the other particle proportionally. By the same token, if a moving object emits a photon, at a known wavelength, forward in its direction of motion, a stationary object that detects the photon will see a shorter relative wavelength , which means a higher relative energy , which means more relative momentum, compared to the moving emitter.

This is no different from regular momentum. Picture a game of dogeball. You are the thrower. You throw two balls at the exact same velocity at two students, one of whom is standing still and one of whom is moving directly away from you. The one who is standing still will feel a harder hit than the one who is moving away. It's the same thing.

I believe these things have been experimentally verified, though I can't reference any specific studies.

QUOTE
I don't agree that the wavelength has changed. It is the same wave length as when it left it's galaxy. But because we are moving slower than the source (i.e. the gap is growing) then we see a stretched out wave.

If we were moving the same speed as the source galaxy the wave would not be stretched out. It would appear to be the same wave at both ends.

It is us that is affecting the length of the wave. It doesn't stretch out by itself along the way. We are running into the light wave slower then it was sent and receive it over a longer period of time with the effect that it is stretched out to us.

I read that thread, and I think that what you stated is exactly what the original poster meant by "changed". If he understands and accepts relativity, then what you said is what he meant, because that's what relativity dictates.

As for your experiments, I'm not aware of any experiments exactly like that, but that's probably only because I'm not a relativistic physicist by trade. I would expect that the fact that GPS works, and includes math to account for such relativistic effects, would show that the speed of light is indeed invariant, at least to a significant certainty level.
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gonegahgah
Posted: Feb 20 2005, 11:34 PM


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rpenner:

In your experiment 2 I need some clarification. Are you talking about the light from the sun hitting the Earth? Sorry if that is dim.

I'll fumble on around that assumption but first I want to look at the sun itself.

The sun is moving through space. We are moving along with it. I'll say for the purposes of this example that the light from the sun is being generated from all surfaces in a fairly overall even emission.

If light only moved at a constant speed of light in its direction of emission then I would imagine the following to be true:
In the direction of travel the sun would be chasing the wave front (without any luck of course).
In the opposite direction the sun would be moving away from the back wave front.

If the speed of light was constant then the sun would create a bunching effect of the light in front of itself and a duller effect behind itself. I'm not sure how fast the sun is supposed to be moving but maybe fast enough to create a noticeable effect if this were true. What this should do is make it slightly hotter to be in space on the leading side of the sun and slightly colder to be in space on the trailing edge.

Now I don't think that is the case. I think the light radiates out evenly from the sun and must therefore be moving at the speed of light plus the speed of the sun.

Let's say we stay the same distance from the sun all year round (I know we don't). Let's also force the assumption that the sun is moving straight.

That gives us three interesting points in space to look at. The first point A is directly behind the sun's direction of travel in our orbit. The second B is in front of the sun's direction of travel in our orbit. The third C is to either side. I think the light from the sun is supposed to take about 8 minutes to reach us.


A ---S--> C

.......B


Now obviously when we pass directly behind the sun at A then we will be hit by light that came from the back of the sun. Also equally evident is that when we pass directly in front of the sun at B we will be hit by light that came from the front of the sun.

Now what about the light coming from the side of the sun relative to its direction of travel. As we pass through the point C then I contend that we will be hit by light that came directly from the side of the sun 8 minutes ago; and not light that was shone out at at an angle to coincide with our passing through that point in space 8 minutes in the future. To me this says that the light is travelling with the sun and must have been imparted with its speed.

QUOTE
Experiment 2 is done all the time by astronomers. The Earth moves around the sun and if the speed of light differed by out movement, then stellar abberation would relate to the arc tangent of the ration of our velocity v, to the speed of light, c. It instead seems to relate to the arc sin of the ratio, which is the prediction of SR.

Back to your experiment 2. I'm not sure what the last sentence means. If we are talking about the light from the sun then how do we measure its speed when it arrives? You can't tell by looking at colour shift how fast the light is moving. That only represents the wave passing through a single point here on Earth and as I said in my past post you can't measure the speed of light by watching it pass through a single point. You have to follow a single point in the wave and see how fast that single point travels through a certain distance. This is the same for all waves.

QUOTE
Experiment 3 was done in the 60's with light emitted by the electromagnetic decay of neutral pions. The pions were moving at 0.2 times the speed of light and the speed of light was measured.

In your experiment 3 I must confess I don't know what this shows me. In the experiment in the 60's did they have the source moving towards the receptor?
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Guest
Posted: Feb 21 2005, 12:58 AM


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WaterBreath:

QUOTE
Well, I'm not really sure exactly how to respond to your questions. My previous answer was given in the context of relativity. You seem, however, to be arguing that relativity is wrong, so obviously any answer I give in that context isn't going to satisfy, but I will do my best.


I'm not saying that things aren't relative. Maybe I am saying that if somewhere in the theory of relativity it states that the speed of light is constant then maybe that aspect of the theory could be wrong.

In contrast I am saying that light itself may be another object that conforms with the idea of relativity. Is the theory of relativity restateable in a few paragraphs? Could you restate it for me if it is?

QUOTE
Thus your torch scenario, by relativity, is impossible.

I don't think us mere humans will be accelating anything by a degree of light speed any time soon. To accelerate by that much would require a lot of fuel.

QUOTE
There is also the increase in energy required for each incremental acceleration of speed, which leads to the conclusion that nothing can accelerate to light speed.

You just need to keep supplying constant force to keep increasing your speed by a constant amount. The increase in speed is only related to your mass isn't it; and has nothing to do with your current speed? If you keep supplying force you will keep accelerating in space. Our problem with testing this is time and fuel.

QUOTE
When a photon bumps into another particle without being absorbed, some momentum is transferred between the photon and that particle. It changes the photon's wavelength (thus also changing the frequency, and energy), and affects the velocity of the other particle proportionally. By the same token, if a moving object emits a photon, at a known wavelength, forward in its direction of motion, a stationary object that detects the photon will see a shorter relative wavelength , which means a higher relative energy , which means more relative momentum, compared to the moving emitter.

But I'm not looking for how much energy was received (or its wavelength); I'm interested in how fast it took to travel there. I am feeling that you can not measure the speed of light by looking at its colour shift. Instead you need to know the exact distance between two objects and see how long a particular point in a light wave takes to travel between those two objects.

The problem with relying on the wave length can be stated like this.

If you have an ocean wave peak that is part of a wave that is 10 metres from trough to trough and it is moving at 10 metres per second then that wave peak will pass through a distance of 10 metres in one second.

If you have an ocean wave peak that is part of a wave that is 5 metres from trough to trough travelling at 10 metres per second then that wave peak will still pass through the distance of 10 metres in one second the same as for the longer wave above.

So you can't tell anything about the speed from the wavelength.

And as I was saying in my previous post if light did travel only at a constant speed then to my thinking the region of space in front of the sun's travel would be denser with electromagnetic radiation then the region of space left behind in the sun's travel. I don't think that that is correct. Or am I wrong and it is?


I am actually beginning to think of relativity in a whole sense. If light does move at relative speeds rather than a constant speed then that means relativity rules the entire universe and not just everything but light (and electromagnetic radiation). In such a universe there would be matter, energy and multiple big bangs all over the place moving at different speeds. Various groups of big bangs, matter and energy might even be revolving around enormous common centres. Just like our planets around our sun, and our sun around the galaxy...

In such a universe there is no concept of stationary anywhere; there is only relativity. Nothing can be considered to be standing still except that something is moving relative to it. In such a relative universe the concept of a stationary point does not exist; not because we can't find it (which we couldn't) but because everything has reference only because it is relative to something else.

As opposed to my thinking, if light moves at one speed only then big bangs would have to be moving within the right speed band for anything to have pratical existance. If light waves are going to move from point A to point B regardless of the speed of the progenators and receptors then anything moving faster than light is not going to give us time to process any light while we are on that object. The so called light sonic boom.

I am really thinking that that thinking is wrong. I don't think the universe is going to conform to our demand that all big bangs exist within a band of relative movement speed.

Please keep showing me what you mean though because I do want to know the answer. Although I am getting more "my way must be it" I still want to be shown if it isn't.
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gonegahgah
Posted: Feb 21 2005, 12:59 AM


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The last post was from me.
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WaterBreath
Posted: Feb 21 2005, 05:17 AM


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gonegahgah:

I have found a study lesson that you might want to read. It explains the developments that lead to Einstein formulating his theory, including several experiments relating to the speed of light, and its invariance: The development of relativity

If you have the time, read that page, and then follow the "next lecture" link at the bottom and read that page as well. Some important highlights include experiments of the speed of light, and the discussion of the difference between light waves and other waves (like ocean waves). I remember my physics teacher in college saying essentially that the reason light is called a wave is simply because the same equations govern its behavior, not necessarily because there is an actual physical similarity. The behavior that is governed by the wave equations in light is different from that in an ocean wave. For example, in an ocean wave, matter is waving up and down. Conversely, in a light wave, the amplitude of electric and magnetic fields is increasing and decreasing (waving). The equation is the same, but the physical nature is different.

There are a few comments of yours that I want to reference very quickly, as well, just to establish what parts of your ideas exactly conflict with current accepted theory.

QUOTE
I'm not saying that things aren't relative. Maybe I am saying that if somewhere in the theory of relativity it states that the speed of light is constant then maybe that aspect of the theory could be wrong.

The theory insists that the laws of physics must be the same for all observers, within their respective frames of reference. And since Maxwell determined that the laws of electromagnetism dictated a specific speed for light, then according to relativity, this speed must be the same no matter who is observing it or what frame they are in.

QUOTE
I don't think us mere humans will be accelating anything by a degree of light speed any time soon. To accelerate by that much would require a lot of fuel.
...
If light waves are going to move from point A to point B regardless of the speed of the progenators and receptors then anything moving faster than light is not going to give us time to process any light while we are on that object

If relativity is right then nothing with mass will be accelerating to light-speed, ever, because it literally takes, not "a lot", but an infinite amount of energy to do so.

QUOTE
You just need to keep supplying constant force to keep increasing your speed by a constant amount.

Again, by relativity, this is not actually true. A constant force accelerates a particle by an incrementally decreasing amount as speed increases.

QUOTE
But I'm not looking for how much energy was received (or its wavelength); I'm interested in how fast it took to travel there. I am feeling that you can not measure the speed of light by looking at its colour shift. Instead you need to know the exact distance between two objects and see how long a particular point in a light wave takes to travel between those two objects.

I guess I didn't state it clearly in my last post: One of the consequences of invariant speed of light is that a moving object that emits a photon will see the wavelength differently than a stationary observer who receives the photon. The wavelength is not used to measure the speed of light, because it has been experimentally verified that for all intents and purposes, light-speed is constant for all observers. If you followed my link above, you will know that I'm referring to the Michelson-Morley experiment and the others that it inspired throughout the following century. In any case, given this information, "shift" can be used instead to measure the speed of the emitter, if it is known that the emitter emits photons of a very specific wavelength. If we receive any other wavelength, we know the emitter is moving.

QUOTE
And as I was saying in my previous post if light did travel only at a constant speed then to my thinking the region of space in front of the sun's travel would be denser with electromagnetic radiation then the region of space left behind in the sun's travel. I don't think that that is correct. Or am I wrong and it is?

I'm not sure what you mean by "denser". The wavelengths should be shorter in front, and longer in back. This means the energies will be higher in front and lower in back. (For light, higher energy = shorter wavelength = shorter period = higher frequency.) I don't know of an exact experiment that has tested this, but since it is a fairly direct, obvious, and simple prediction of relativity, I would guess that it has indeed been tested in some way or another.

I'm not sure if this has been helpful, or if so, how much. But you do need to know that some of the things you are considering do contradict experimental findings, and long-accepted theory. My advice would be, before you continue to formulate your theories, do some research on the experiments that have been done relating to these subjects, and make sure you are not making false assumptions. If you make assumptions that contradict past experiments, then in order for your theory to go anywhere with any respect, you need to explain why those contradictions happened as well.
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philip347
Posted: Feb 22 2005, 04:04 AM


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The speed at which light exist, that we can reference to, is only in an assigned realm.

That's all you have to know.
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Guest_longlivelinky
Posted: Feb 22 2005, 05:09 AM


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Not only does it take infinite amount of energy but mass becomes "bigger" when going faster, meaning particles going at light speed would be huge, this is why it takes infinite amount of energy too i THINK
because as the particle speeds up you have to compensate for its mass becoming larger which of course will need more energy to speed it up

One more question for goodelf as he explains them well:If as you say particles are just geometry and waves-why cant "particles" travel at light speed but photons and "energy" and waves can?
energy being electricity electrons whatever

because surely then it wouldnt matter whether it was a particle or not-as it isnt bound by mass and is simply yet another wave...
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