baudrunner's space: An illumination on the subject of light
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Friday, January 18, 2008

An illumination on the subject of light

The study of light has been a favorite preoccupation of scientists for as long as there has been science. They still refer to "the speed of light". I prefer to be more precise in my description, and refer to it as "the rate of atomic interaction" or "the rate of propagation of the electromagnetic waves that fall in the visible range of the optical spectrum".

Oddly enough, there are still physicists who believe that photon particles scoot across the Universe forever or until their progress is impeded, either through absorption or transformation. Presumably, our eyes qualify as photon absorbers. The photons that originate in stars a billion light years away are said to have been travelling across the intervening space all that time until they hit our retinas. Photons are said to be the source of light.

Clarification is in order. Energy which is released or absorbed by one of an atom's electron shells in which the electron undergoes a transitional change whereby it drops to or is raised to another energy level is called photonic energy. This energy is absorbed or released as discrete quanta. This was first noticed by Max Planck, who is essentially the unwitting founder of quantum physics. In short, he witnessed energy released as pulses of a constant frequency from a black body radiator, or cavity resonator, a small hollowed out perfectly symmetrical sphere with a tiny hole punched in it. Albert Einstein extended Planck's observation to include energy absorption of discrete quanta, and the photon was born.

Albert Einstein won his Nobel prize not for his theory of relativity, but for his explanation of the photo-electric effect. When ultraviolet light is directed at a sodium block in a vacuum jar, a galvanometer measures electric current. He reasoned that a photon originating from a source of ultra-violet radiation had enough energy to knock the single electron out of the outermost orbital of a sodium atom. In fact, he didn't need the ultraviolet light, because he would have observed the same effect if he had simply heated the sodium block, and heat originates at the other end of the spectrum in the infra-red range. So, what was actually happening?

Obviously the sodium atom has a very weak hold on that single electron in its outermost orbital. That's true. And apparently all that is required to knock it loose is sufficient agitation, regardless of the source. And in that description lies the clue to how we see.

At the event horizon of a black hole, the point of no return, particles are rushing in toward the center with such violence that electrons are literally stripped from the nuclei of their atoms. That is why we do not see light emanating from a black hole, and scientists describe this by saying that not even light can escape the intense gravitational pull of a black hole. But in fact, we need stable electron orbitals around the atoms in a medium in order for the range of frequencies that we can detect as light to be propagated as EM waves. We can still detect X-rays emanating from a black hole, but they originate from deep within the atom. Think of the principle of like polar repulsion. All electrons have an electromagnetic charge, and if you bring an atom adjacent to another atom a little closer to it than their normal stable relationship in a medium would normally allow then you will begin to push the other atom away. If you set up an oscillating behaviour in the atoms in a medium then they will all respond by oscillating at the same frequencies. In effect, the outer electron shells of the atoms in a medium are modulated with the surface characteristics of the atoms of all the objects within our field of view so long as there is a source of photonic energy stimulating their oscillations. Distance is of no consequence, because there is no loss of energy in this process and it can go on forever.

A research physicist by the name of Philip Bucksbaum at Michigan University has been conducting experiments on the electron to determine if the theory that an infinite amount of information can be stored on an electron can be proved, and he has succeeded in proving this to his satisfaction. That makes sense, really, because if you place yourself in an infinitely large room with an infinite number of shelves lining the wall on which are placed an infinite number of knick-knacks you would see all those objects, your range and field of vision permitting. The electrons of the atoms in the medium are modulated with all the surface characteristics of all the objects in that room.

What is more impressive and wondrous is that when those EM modulations strike the cones and rods on our retinas, our brains decipher the photo-electric information and convert the intensity to degrees of brightness and the modulated EM waves to the characteristic hues and tones and textures via the optical nerves. We actually see with our brains. Our retinas are really only photosensitive EM wave detectors. Photons do not illuminate the world for us to see. That explains nothing.

In the realm of EM radiation, a fundamental frequency has a virtually infinite range of harmonics and subharmonics. The combined oscillations resulting from the atomic interaction of many components in a medium which permits propagation produces a wide range of these summed harmonics and subharmonics and we detect those that fall in the range to which our cones and rods are tuned. Our visible world is an interpretation of our brains.

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