baudrunner's space: Inviting controversy - exceeding light speed
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Inviting controversy - exceeding light speed

The noted Italian astronomer Paolo Maffei states in his excellent book "Beyond the Moon" that if our neighboring galaxy Andromeda (2.9 million light years away) were to explode, we would feel the initial shock wave within a couple of days of that event. Obviously then, shock waves originating from colossal events propagate faster than ordinary electromagnetic waves. We will acknowledge for the sake of argument, as suggested by Maffei, that the density of intergalactic space is in the order of one hydrogen atom per cubic centimeter. Given that the rate of atomic interaction determines the rate of propagation of EM waves, then the distance travelled by an EM wave front for a given time frame is proportional to the number of particles in the medium which effect their transmission for that distance. We can do a logical calculation with respect to the actual distance that a light wave would travel through intergalactic space for a given time frame using data compiled for the values we have collected from experimentation at one atmosphere of pressure at 1G, or, on the surface of the earth. The medium of the atmosphere is much denser than the medium of space. Experiments to determine the speed of light were performed in a breathable atmosphere. The statement that "the speed of light" in vacuum is 3x10^10 cm/sec is therefore an assumption.

As a matter of fact, we can use Avogadro's number and the gram atomic weight of hydrogen to find the number of atoms in one gram of hydrogen, and its density of 0.08987 g/L to calculate the total number of hydrogen atoms aligned along a one cm line at one atmosphere of pressure and 1G of force. This yields 37.728 x 10^5 atoms/cm which when multiplied by the rate of EM wave propagation in an atmosphere, which is 3x10^10 cm/sec, gives us the distance that light waves propagate in intergalactic space in one second. This is 1.132x10^12 km, at a rate which is measured as being 3x10^10 cm/sec at 1G and 1 atmosphere of pressure. That's 1.132 terakm!

To argue that light waves travel 300,000 km in one second in space or on the ground is ludicrous. All experiments with respect to EM wave behaviour show us that they travel slower in a denser medium. In fact, in diamond, the optically densest medium, the rate of light wave propagation is half the rate measured for air.

This leaves one to wonder just what exactly Einstein meant when he stated that nothing can exceed the speed of light wave propagation. Based on logic alone we can assume that since low frequency waves travel slower, eg. sound waves, that the higher the frequency, the faster the rate of propagation, so it follows that gamma waves travel faster than light waves. That is also logical with respect to the rate at which particles in the medium interact. They would respond much quicker to a faster rate of oscillation. It could be argued that sound waves are not EM waves but that doesn't remove the logic unless we argue that atomic interaction has no influence in the propagation of EM waves. We can counter that argument.

X rays are produced in the lab by the bombardment of an element with a high energy electron beam. The electrons of the target atoms are stripped from the nucleus in this violent process. Max von Laue's observations of the behaviour of X ray diffraction in crystals in 1912 proved that X rays are light waves of very short wavelengths. In 1914 the English physicist H.G.H. Mosely discovered something very intriguing when he studied the X rays produced by different metals. Each element produces several wavelengths of X rays, but for the sake of our discussion we are here concerned with the strongest emission for each element. He discovered when he graphed the atomic number of an element against the square root of the observed frequency of the X ray emission that there was a linear relationship. In fact, all the points in the X-Y graph lay on a straight line. In other words, there was a direct correlation between the square root of the frequency of the X rays of an element and the number of protons or electrons in one atom of that element. The frequency of an X ray is a function of the mass of the nucleus of the atom which emits it and its propagation is the result of the interactions of stable nuclei. If we scale the nucleus of an atom to the size of a golf ball, then the outermost electron is about 12 kilometers away. These are roughly the proportional characteristics represented by the difference in the dimensions of the nuclei and an atom's overall dimensions, and the frequencies of X rays and light waves.

We can conclude then that the rate of light wave propagation is only an arbitrary number resulting from the calculation of the rate of particle interactions over a measured distance within a time frame of the medium represented by the components of the atmosphere found on Earth at about 1G and 1 atmosphere of pressure, and that this is not the case for all EM wave propagation in any medium.

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