The Principles of Light

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"The Principles of Light"
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The Quantum Dilemma

Though not a scientist myself, I've always taken an interest in matters of physics and astronomy and from childhood have regularly studied black holes, the properties of light and so on. My main interests recently are the enigmas of Quantum physics and having grasped a fairly broad understanding of certain experiments performed in that field of interest, I believe there is an answer to the dilemma of how and why certain experiments provide data, which though conclusive, nonetheless, leaves many unanswered questions. I may of course, have got the whole thing completely wrong, in which case, academic scientists can at least have a good chuckle at my clumsy attempts to propose an answer. Even so, non-scientists will undoubtedly learn something from this essay regarding the nature of Quantum physics and I hope in the process, much of the mystery surrounding this subject will be dispelled with readers encouraged to think more deeply, not just about Quantum Particles but also, about our Universe and the life it has created.

Quantum physics and the quantum world consists of sub-atomic energy particles i.e. electrons/photons etc. Our whole universe is flooded with these minute particles, our own sun for example, emits massive amounts of photons and the majority of plant-life on Earth, depends on their energy. Without getting bogged down with who discovered what and when (which isn't to suggest these are in any way unimportant), it seems that for a very long time, there was a debate as to whether light is a particle or a wave. Quantum physics produced conclusive evidence that light is both particle and wave, by a series of experiments involving individual QP's (photons) being placed in a chamber to travel a course from one end to the other. But this course is interrupted by an obstacle; a thin slide cut with two slits. The astounding results were, that one photon somehow travels through both slits because, the end of the chamber where the photons ultimately arrived, showed an interference pattern, thus proving that light travels in waves.

However, when a device is placed in the chamber, to study exactly how the single QP managed to travel through both slits, it was discovered that the photon passed through only one or other of the slits and no interference pattern is shown at the other end, thus proving that light is a particle and behaves like a particle. This raised all kinds of questions - no one could deny the validity of the experiments nor the reality of the conflicting results; was it that the very act of observance, somehow influenced the photon to stop behaving like a wave and instead behave like an orderly particle would behave in an orderly universe?

This question is answered I believe, through the next experiment (again, I won't go into in detail, though I'm sure scientists are fully aware of these); this consists of a) locating a QP and b) measuring its velocity/speed. Experimenters were surprised to find that when they located a QP, they couldn't determine its speed, but when they were able to measure a QP's speed, they couldn't then locate its exact position. Again, we're left with the questions of how and why - we have the evidence, but this evidence actually leaves us with more unanswered questions than we started with - we're left with the irony that despite adding to our knowledge, we're seemingly placed in the position of actually knowing less than we did at the start, even though we have conclusive evidence gained through valid experiments.

From my perspective, unburdened with mathematical equations etc. and unafraid of ridicule amongst the scientific community, I believe that the answer lies in the notion of light being both particle and wave. The probability is, that a photon, as an individual particle will pass through one or other of the slits. As a wave, it appears, the photon will always pass through both slits thus encompassing both possibilities at once. It is also apparent that human observation will force the photon wave to behave like a particle and pass through only one slit. It is possible however, that the results of the afore-mentioned experiments depend entirely on our own human position in time; humanity doesn't operate at light speed. Photons on the other hand, do.

So, my proposal is this: A photon is a wave because it is traveling at light-speed, moving so fast it leaves a trail, rather like the trail cartoonists use to depict movement, therefore, before the particle even hit's the obstacle, the wave has already traveled through both slits because light energy, at its natural speed & timescale, will shine through every available crevice. When we observe the wave we're actually observing both past and present, except, it is impossible for us to observe the wave at work in our experimental chamber, simply because we have only one photon and the moment we focus on that particle, it is locked into our time-scale and so behaves in an orderly nature - as we'd expect. But when we do not focus on the photon particle, it remains free to travel within its own time-scale and therefore, travels as a wave. This idea is supported by the fact that we can determine where a QP is, but can't measure its speed and the fact that we can measure a QP's speed but then cannot locate it.

To my understanding, it's clear that on locating a QP, by the laws of physics, we have forced it to operate within our own time-scale and so it behaves accordingly - of course we cannot measure its speed because in our time-scale the QP is effectively at a standstill - just as, if we were to observe a man in a spaceship traveling at light-speed, his movements would appear extremely slow, even though, as far as he's concerned, time moves on the spaceship much as it does on Earth. We can observe the man is actually moving because a man is not a QP. If the man were himself as a being, made entirely of light and therefore, operating at the same speed of his space-ship, if we did attempt to observe him, he would appear at a complete standstill - a snap-shot image; it would take any amount of snapshots over any amount of time, to show that he was indeed, moving. What this means is that when we observe a QP, we are actually witnessing a past event within the QP's own time-scale; we may measure a QP's speed, but by the time we've managed to do this, the QP has moved far into the future and so of course, it cannot be located as being here or there.

I'm not entirely sure, but I think this idea is supported by Einstein's theory of Special Relativity. Einstein understood the properties of light correctly within the confines of our own time-scale. We cannot leave this time-scale and behave like a QP; on a Universal time-scale, humanity has existed on Earth for just a few minutes. Given that our Universe is so vast, QP light speed is the fastest that time can travel/operate in, it bounces off planets, travels through empty space, enters and illuminates clouds of dust and gas etc. It shifts red when moving away from us or blue when moving toward us (the Doppler Effect). It's not surprising therefore, that when we attempt to isolate individual QP's, we encounter difficulty and conflicting results simply because we have no choice but to operate in our own time limitations.

I suppose the best way to explain the situation is as follows: We turn the Hubble telescope onto a dark area of space, seemingly empty. But over a period of time, the Hubble begins to reflect a myriad of galaxies of every shape and hue. The Hubble can do this because it has the ability to focus - to zoom-in onto a timescale, which, as yet, has not reached our own timescale of observance. We know now where these galaxies are, but we're essentially witnessing past events, because many of those galaxies might today - at this very moment in time, not exist as presently revealed by the Hubble; it's taken the light emitted from those galaxies so long to reach us, that it's impossible to view them in their here-and-now reality. The same can be said for our study of QP's in the sense we may locate one either here or there, but here or there is not necessarily where it is now, once we've measured its velocity. It is also a question of perspective through time, which isn't always just what we "observe" through looking or measuring in the here and now; QP's actually exist and operate in a here & now, which on our human timescale is essentially, the future.

More about this author: Deborah Mahmoudieh

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