Back - Main Menu

Is There a Dynamic Ether?

Planck Units & Other Units in Physics


This is an update to this website which was added on August 18, 2002, as an explanation to counter some misinformation which seems to be prevalent within much of the physics community.

Special Note:
I have been criticized for using the word "photon" for light when I believe light to be a series of waves.   "Photon" is the term given by particle physicists and relates to the theory known as "quantum electrodynamics" or "QED".   I use the term "photon" because it is the popular word allowed in light theory and the only way I can communicate to most people regarding what is actually a wave packet of light.
In a recent issue of a magazine which is supposed to be a science publication is an article which is supposed to be valid science. Within this article are statements and arguments which are incorrect and certainly should have been removed or modified before the article was published. Although the article has many of good points, it is not what once was considered good science and, unfortunately, is typical of what is being foisted upon an unsuspecting readership. One wonders how our so-called science editors have become what they are today.

The portion of the article regarding red shift is erroneous because neither the author nor the editor seem to understand the fundamentals of photons, frequencies, wavelengths, and associated phenomena. This particular area of ignorance is too widespread today to ignore. It was once necessary to understand the fundamentals of a subject about which one was writing. This is no longer the case, partly because the fundamentals are no longer taught in many of our American educational institutions and partly because unruly children and young adults in American schools are not allowed to be held back, disciplined, or expelled when they prevent themselves and others from learning. What we have today is "sloppy science" and this is causing serious students to choose occupations which have more valid foundations.

The article states that friction causes photons from distant sources to lose energy and this causes the phenomenon known as "red shift". It even states that a certain prominent physicist was saying that this is the case. Considering the number of errors in the article, it is likely that this particular physicist was misunderstood completely if he ever said anything at all on the subject. In any case, the explanation which follows should dispel the idea of red shift being equated to a loss of energy.

Red Shift

When light passes through a prism, each wavelength has its own angle of refraction. When light is gathered from distant celestial sources, and passed through a prism, each wavelength can be distinguished by its angle of refraction. Each element when heated produces light in certain "signature" wavelengths which are separated by appropriate distances by their angles of refraction. If the element were likened to a tune played upon a piano, the separation of its signature wavelengths would be like the separation between the piano keys providing the notes of the tune. The pattern provided by the separation remains the same even when the wavelengths are shifted in length - just as a tune remains the same even when it is transposed from a soprano's voice range to that of an alto.

Red light has a long wavelength within the visible spectrum of light, so a shift to a longer wavelength has been termed a "red shift". It was discovered that the wavelength signatures of elements from distant stars have become longer proportional to the distance of each star. The currently accepted explanation for this phenomenon is that the celestial bodies within our universe are all moving away from one another. From this comes the theory of the expanding universe.

Photons and Photon Energy

"Photon" is the name given to a package of light. The commonly accepted idea is that each photon has a dual nature, behaving sometimes as a if it were a wave phenomenon, and other times as if it were a particle. Some of us believe it to be a wave phenomenon, some believe it to be a particle, and others have not made up their minds. But regardless of what anyone believes about the nature of a photon, it is accepted that it sometimes behaves as if it were a wave phenomenon.

Planck's constant, "h", is the currently accepted quantum (smallest quantity) of "energy" [actually it is not energy but d2/t) possible within a photon. The actual energy, "e", of a photon is the product
of its frequency, "f" and Planck's constant (e = hf). But this is the energy arbitrarily assigned to our artificial photon. In this case, frequency means the number of passages of one electromagnetic wave within one second of time. Planck's constant is the energy found within one wave. Those who believe that the photon is not a wave phenomenon still accept the wave-like nature of this energy equation. The point is, we arbitrarily assigned the time interval of one second to establish photon energy. Therefore, our photon is artificial and used for our own convenience.

If one is certain that a photon is a little particle that has energy similar to a little cannon ball, then the one second interval is just a means of establishing the energy of the particle.   However, this analogy does not work well when explaining red shift.   On the other hand, if one accepts the idea that light is a series of waves and that a photon is a packet of waves, then red shift is easily explained.   But light as a wave means that a photon should not be limited to one second.

See Laughing at the Emperor, Theories for further explanation.

In nature, a photon (wave packet) is not exactly one second long. It is either less or greater than one second. We have not been able to dictate to a star that it deliver only one-second-long bursts of light. When a star does send out light, its energy is still in units of Planck's constant regardless of how many wave passages occur in one second.

f = c/w where c is the speed of light and w is the wavelength. The longer wavelengths due to red shift cause the frequency (number of wave passages in one second) to become less, but each wave still has the same energy regardless of when it arrives here.

Yes, due to the red shift there is less energy arriving here in one second. And no, there is no loss of energy due to red shift. The same amount of energy arrives here that was first sent by the star - it just takes a little longer to arrive. Nothing in the universe says that we can dictate to nature that everything be timed by our one-second intervals.

While on the same subject, does it seem logical that a natural package of high-frequency light that is half a second long be considered to have more energy than a natural package of low-frequency light that is an hour long? It is our one-second assignation and the way it is misunderstood that has led to such a stupid interpretation of photons.

Please click on the following for a more detailed explanation.

Planck's Constant

Added October 9, 2005

The March issue of Scientific American had an article in it written by two astronomers.   At least one of them has a degree in astrophysics.   Their article is typical mainstream and the writing is all right for the subject.

There is a letter to the editor in the July issue of Scientific American asking a question regarding the contents of the above-mentioned article:   Photons lose energy as space expands, but where does that lost energy go?   I refer to the conservation of energy.   Does the energy lost by photons contribute somehow to the expansion of space?   Is space stealing energy from the universe?

Excerpts from the answer prove my point about photon misconceptions by professionals:   ... in normal Doppler shift, observers see redshifted photons.   The energy hasn't gone anywhere...the energy is a frame-dependent quantity:   just as the velocity and hence kinetic energy of a train depend on your frame of reference, photons appear to have different energies from different frames.   Much of the same is true of the cosmological redshift.

This explanation is not very helpful to the layman, but it is all right so far as it goes.   It pre-supposes that photons have energies based upon one second of time and that the waves or photon vibrations arrive at different intervals according to the reference frame.   Then the astronomers go on to say:   In the reference frame we used to describe the universe's expansion, one could say that the energy goes into the gravitational potential energy of the photon or into the work done by photon pressure as the universe expands.   We would get the energy back if the universe were to recollapse.   These are not completely satisfactory explanations, because classical analogies do not translate perfectly into the relativistic picture.

This explanation indicates a lack of understanding of even the currently accepted view of photons and red shift.   It also indicates a dependence upon a buzzword (relativity) as a crutch in lieu of the real answer to the question.

A correct answer to the question would have been:   The energy in a photon is in each wave or photon vibration (if the photon is considered to be a particle).   We have arbitrarily assigned the time interval of one second to photon production because photon energy equals Planck's constant times the photon frequency (and frequency is based upon one second).   Redshift, in this case, is caused by the universe expanding so that the waves (or photon vibrations) are farther apart when they arrive than they were when they started.   The speed of light is the same throughout the universe, so when the waves (or photon vibrations) are farther apart, there is a longer time for them to arrive than was the case when they were produced.   The energy is still there, but it takes a longer time for all of it to arrive.   Therefore, energy is conserved.

Please click on the following for a more detailed explanation.

Planck's Constant

There is another point that should be mentioned.   Energy is energy regardless of the time it takes to do its work.   Energy per time period is called power.   Thus, a horsepower for instance, is defined as 550 foot pounds of energy per second.   Since a photon's "energy" has been defined by frequency, it is not really energy, but "power".   So there is no need to invoke the conservation of energy because we are really speaking of power.   An engineer would be bounced out of school if he did not understand this simple concept.

Simplified explanation of Red Shift, Energy, and Power

I do not blame the physicists who misunderstand photons, but I do blame our system of education which either allows the teaching of ignorance or fails to prevent the ignorant from graduating (or both).

Planck Units & Other Units in Physics

Is There a Dynamic Ether?

Back - Main Menu - Next