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 Why is the speed of light constant?
10th August 2010, 21:54
Post: #1
 ABierman1986 Logically Consistent Religious Views: Atheist Posts: 100 Joined: 8th August 2010 Reputation: 4
Why is the speed of light constant?
Another thread on this forum got me thinking about the speed of light. Maxwell's equations (a vector calculus form of four other genius' laws to give credit) form the foundation of our understanding of E&M. Quantum physics has given us equations to relate the nuclear forces with the electromagnetic force. So now physicists work on their GUT. So more to the point;

I'm not going to try and argue any of what we have verified about light or the theories surrounding it, I'd rather work within this framework assuming our observations are correct than worry about other options at this moment, other than options that might explain my question.

Why should light travel in the way that it does? What characteristic of spacetime is the root cause of relativistic consequences? The entire argument of relativity is that time, mass and length are relative to observers frames of reference. So something about the act of moving at relatively very high speeds causes spacetime to react in a way that light travels the same speed for both perspectives.

Gravity has proven to 'bend' spacetime, and light will react to this curvature. My thoughts are that perhaps its the motion of the gravity wells that causes the relativistic effects, gravity is thought to travel at the speed of light, but so little is known about the mechanisms of gravity that I wonder what unknown effects it might have.

I have read papers theorizing gravity as a manifestation of a higher spatial dimension, but I'd like to hear responses to this. Since increased mass implies increased gravitational effects, and gravity may be associated with higher spatial dimension is mass an indicator of the effects that 4th dimensional motion has on our perception? (I know, the logic here is very faulty, but its the line of thinking I went through to try and disprove) And could the relative movement of two bodies in this higher dimension have the consequences of relativistic effects? I know this is borderline philosophical, but I'd like to hear theoretical contradictions to this idea as I'm not as well versed in this as I'd like to be.
My religion is the understanding of my world. My god is the energy that underlies it all. My worship is my constant endeavor to unravel the mysteries of my religion.
10th August 2010, 22:00
Post: #2
 Tiberius Question Everything. Religious Views: Shell B Posts: 10347 Joined: 25th August 2008 Reputation: 84
RE: Why is the speed of light constant?
The speed of light isn't constant. The speed of light through a certain material is constant, but the speed of light generally can vary massively.

The speed of light through a vacuum is believed to be the speed limit of the universe (i.e. the fastest you can go relative to space-time). However if a light photon goes from a vacuum into water, it will slow down. Scientists can even stop light momentarily: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3308109.stm

No sure how this affects your question; I just wanted to point out the correction.
10th August 2010, 22:03
Post: #3
 ABierman1986 Logically Consistent Religious Views: Atheist Posts: 100 Joined: 8th August 2010 Reputation: 4
RE: Why is the speed of light constant?
(10th August 2010 22:00)Tiberius Wrote:  The speed of light isn't constant. The speed of light through a certain material is constant, but the speed of light generally can vary massively.

The speed of light through a vacuum is believed to be the speed limit of the universe (i.e. the fastest you can go relative to space-time). However if a light photon goes from a vacuum into water, it will slow down. Scientists can even stop light momentarily: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3308109.stm

No sure how this affects your question; I just wanted to point out the correction.

Sure, I should have been more clear, I am strictly speaking of light in a vacuum being constant, more to discuss what this might be a result of, and moreover the root cause of all of those actions.
My religion is the understanding of my world. My god is the energy that underlies it all. My worship is my constant endeavor to unravel the mysteries of my religion.
11th August 2010, 09:51
Post: #4
 AnunZi NO U Religious Views: I love Big Mac's. Does that count? Posts: 171 Joined: 30th July 2010 Reputation: 3
RE: Why is the speed of light constant?
(10th August 2010 21:54)ABierman1986 Wrote:  I have read papers theorizing gravity as a manifestation of a higher spatial dimension, but I'd like to hear responses to this. Since increased mass implies increased gravitational effects, and gravity may be associated with higher spatial dimension is mass an indicator of the effects that 4th dimensional motion has on our perception? (I know, the logic here is very faulty, but its the line of thinking I went through to try and disprove) And could the relative movement of two bodies in this higher dimension have the consequences of relativistic effects? I know this is borderline philosophical, but I'd like to hear theoretical contradictions to this idea as I'm not as well versed in this as I'd like to be.

Are you saying that light in ALL cases is affected by mass/bodies along the 4th dimension? Or only in some cases thus resulting in the observable non-constant speed of light?

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?
"A man who keeps one eye on the past is blind in one eye. A man who ignores the past is blind in both."
12th August 2010, 00:10
Post: #5
 ABierman1986 Logically Consistent Religious Views: Atheist Posts: 100 Joined: 8th August 2010 Reputation: 4
RE: Why is the speed of light constant?
(11th August 2010 09:51)AnunZi Wrote:
(10th August 2010 21:54)ABierman1986 Wrote:  I have read papers theorizing gravity as a manifestation of a higher spatial dimension, but I'd like to hear responses to this. Since increased mass implies increased gravitational effects, and gravity may be associated with higher spatial dimension is mass an indicator of the effects that 4th dimensional motion has on our perception? (I know, the logic here is very faulty, but its the line of thinking I went through to try and disprove) And could the relative movement of two bodies in this higher dimension have the consequences of relativistic effects? I know this is borderline philosophical, but I'd like to hear theoretical contradictions to this idea as I'm not as well versed in this as I'd like to be.

Are you saying that light in ALL cases is affected by mass/bodies along the 4th dimension? Or only in some cases thus resulting in the observable non-constant speed of light?

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?

I'm strictly speaking of light in a free space, unimpeded by any medium. If we think of it as an Einstein thought experiment the idea would be two observers on spaceships (no light impedance through air or whatever), one moving very fast relative to the other in deep space. The moving one shines a flashlight straight up and the two observers measure the time it takes for the light to return. According to relativity the light will take a longer amount of time to measure based on the stationary observer than the moving one who shined the light. Also the mass of the moving ship will increase and the length will decrease.

My question is what is happening to the fabric of spacetime as one mass speeds past another, why does time slow down? An increased mass and shortened length would imply a more focused gravity well doesn't it? Since we know how light bends around gravity I thought that maybe the relativistic effects could be the result of a more focused gravity well. I'm not positive how this would correspond to the 4th dimension, but gravity's most promising contending theories that I've run across all seem to use a 4th spatial dimension. I'll try and find those papers so people can look at them.
My religion is the understanding of my world. My god is the energy that underlies it all. My worship is my constant endeavor to unravel the mysteries of my religion.
12th August 2010, 00:31
Post: #6
 TheDarkestOfAngels Posted by Mazie the Posting Cat Religious Views: None Posts: 1224 Joined: 15th July 2010 Reputation: 21
RE: Why is the speed of light constant?
(10th August 2010 21:54)ABierman1986 Wrote:  Why should light travel in the way that it does? What characteristic of spacetime is the root cause of relativistic consequences? The entire argument of relativity is that time, mass and length are relative to observers frames of reference. So something about the act of moving at relatively very high speeds causes spacetime to react in a way that light travels the same speed for both perspectives.
Light travels the way it does because it does not have mass and anything without mass always travels at the speed of light. Gravity even travels at the speed of light even though it isn't so much a 'force' as it is a bend in space-time due to a massive object or whatever.
From what I understand, it's not a characteristic of space-time, but rather energy and matter or at least both.
I'm not sure if this answers your question, but this is the best answer I can give short of researching it myself.

(10th August 2010 21:54)ABierman1986 Wrote:  Gravity has proven to 'bend' spacetime, and light will react to this curvature. My thoughts are that perhaps its the motion of the gravity wells that causes the relativistic effects, gravity is thought to travel at the speed of light, but so little is known about the mechanisms of gravity that I wonder what unknown effects it might have.
We actually know quite a bit about gravity but what we don't know is how massive objects cause gravity, exactly and the biggest frontier of 'shrug-shoulders' isofar as gravity is concerned is quantum gravity or gravity on the scale of atoms and light waves.

(10th August 2010 21:54)ABierman1986 Wrote:  I have read papers theorizing gravity as a manifestation of a higher spatial dimension, but I'd like to hear responses to this. Since increased mass implies increased gravitational effects, and gravity may be associated with higher spatial dimension is mass an indicator of the effects that 4th dimensional motion has on our perception? (I know, the logic here is very faulty, but its the line of thinking I went through to try and disprove) And could the relative movement of two bodies in this higher dimension have the consequences of relativistic effects? I know this is borderline philosophical, but I'd like to hear theoretical contradictions to this idea as I'm not as well versed in this as I'd like to be.
There are a lot of theories about gravity's precise cause but unfortunately, the key to that understanding will probably have to wait until we discover the higgs boson, discover that the higgs boson isn't real, or something about quantum gravity will unlock, I think the answers you're seeking, but this is at the edge of physics research, as far as I understand it and right now there are more questions than answers for the time being.

I share your desire to understand more about it myself, but that'll have to wait some years I suppose.
If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach in the public schools, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools and next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers...
Ignorance and fanaticism are ever busy and need feeding. Always feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers; tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lecturers, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, Your Honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth centry when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind. ~Clarence Darrow, at the Scopes Monkey Trial, 1925

Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. ~Ronald Reagan
13th August 2010, 09:37
Post: #7
 AnunZi NO U Religious Views: I love Big Mac's. Does that count? Posts: 171 Joined: 30th July 2010 Reputation: 3
RE: Why is the speed of light constant?
(12th August 2010 00:10)ABierman1986 Wrote:  My question is what is happening to the fabric of spacetime as one mass speeds past another, why does time slow down? An increased mass and shortened length would imply a more focused gravity well doesn't it? Since we know how light bends around gravity I thought that maybe the relativistic effects could be the result of a more focused gravity well

From what I understand of general relativity, its gravity itâ€™s self that effects time. This is the theory of gravitational time dilation. Basically it states that higher gravitational potential causes time to slow down. This can be experimentally proven. Simply place 2 synced atomic clocks at differing altitudes (with a gravitational field) and over a period of time they will become out of sync.

My thoughts on this are that as space and time are (according to Einstein) one and the same thing, I.E Space-time then if you distort space with gravity you must also distort time.
"A man who keeps one eye on the past is blind in one eye. A man who ignores the past is blind in both."
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