What Is Light?
Is light a wave? Does it consist of particles? What if we assume, instead, that light has the configuration of a rope?
The nature of light
What is light? Is light a physical object or an abstract concept? Is there something 'there' that comes in contact with your eyes or makes a shadow? Or is the nature of light a philosophical issue?
A Brief History of Light
Many throughout history have pondered the nature of light. Everyone from Euclid and Lucretius, through Alhazen, to Descartes and Newton thought of light as a stream of particles. Then in the 18th Century the Particle Hypothesis encountered its first competitor. Hooke and Huygens discovered and developed the wave nature of light and that's when the debate really started. Yet, the particle kept rolling strong primarily on Newton's authority..
It wouldn't be until the 19th Century that the Particle Hypothesis began to tumble. Thomas Young shattered Newton’s corpuscular proposal with his slit experiment of 1803, and a few years later Fresnel all but buried the languishing particle in the ash heap of history when he explained polarization with transverse waves. Maxwell would hammer the final nail on the ‘corpuscular’ coffin when he described light with four wave equations.
But the resilient corpuscle came back to life with a vengeance at the turn of the century. The new generation of theorists proposed that light comes in discrete packets of a substance known in mathematical circles as 'energy'. They named this mathematical unit a 'quantum' or quantity of energy and, thus, was the seed of Quantum Mechanics sowed. Once again, light recovered its particulate nature, shedding behind its wave-like cocoon. What saved the wave from sudden death was De Broglie's proposal that matter also exhibits wave-like behavior.
Having had enough of Mother Nature's teasing, the world-class mathematicians finally held a pow-wow in Belgium in 1926 to resolve the issue once and for all. They raised their hands and decided by consensus that Mother Nature did not know her own world. The mathematicians decreed that light was neither a particle nor a wave. Light was BOTH. The scholars merged the two irreconcilable hypotheses into an unfathomable ‘entity’ known as a wave-packet. All sides signed the contract and returned home having solved the 3000 year old puzzle.
Of course, the mathematicians couldn't illustrate the unimaginable Frankenstein they had created and which now acquired life of its own. They didn't have to. They simply got rid of the wave and used the particle as they always had. The only time a mathematician invokes the wave model is for those few exceptions where he absolutely cannot explain the behavior of light with particles. Then, he continues to talk about particles as if nothing. Ask an expert such as Roger Penrose to illustrate the wave packet and he draws a corkscrew with a shaft running down its center.
Is this the actual wave-packet that comes from your lamp and strikes you in the eyes?
Of course not! What the authentic wave-packet looks like, the mathematicians argue, is immaterial. It’s at best a philosophical issue: your opinion. Just don’t be such a radical devil’s advocate and suggest that light looks like a cube!
Indeed, even Newton’s archaic corpuscle has suffered major plastic surgery. The alleged ‘particle’ of contemporary ‘physics’ is not what you think it is. To put it simply, the particles of the Standard Model of Quantum Mechanics have no length, width, or height like your golf ball does. They are zero-dimensional (0D). And, in addition, the particle of light – the photon – doesn’t even have mass.
The mathematicians don’t lose any sleep working in the lab with non-entities. They’ve grown accustomed to dualities and paradoxes and regard common sense to be a handicap. The important thing for the mathematical establishment is the equation: a description of how light behaves. Theoreticians never again pondered what the invisible configuration of light might look like. They have now delegated those types of questions to the philosophers on the other side of campus, who, as it turns out, aren't pondering them either.
Status of light and particles
So where do we stand today? Are we done with Physics? Have we settled whether light consists of a flow of 0D particles which travel as a wave?
Well, what experiment are prominent research centers such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) or the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) running to falsify the particle hypothesis?
Yes, we are stuck forevermore with particles. If the mathematician runs into trouble here or there, he can always invoke the wave and then continue talking about particles and inventing cute names for them to keep plugging holes in their Standard Model Chart. The experiments of today at places like LHC and SLAC are much more challenging than the petty stuff run by Young and Fresnel. The researchers are no longer interested in elucidating the architecture of light. In fact, they are taught that light doesn’t have one: “How are we supposed to know the shape of light if we would have to use light to see it?”
Well, does the Moon have shape before the Sun shines it’s light on it? Doesn’t shape precede motion? If light moves, it had better have shape!
No! Today, the mathematicians have moved on to ‘important’ experiments. They spend your tax money attempting to discover an elusive particle of weight known as the Higgs, or to detect the heavy particles which comprise a mysterious substance called dark matter which would enable Einstein’s failed equations to describe why a galaxy revolves like a carousel: with the horsies on the outside as fast as the buggies on the inside.
The rope hypothesis
One equation that most high school students are familiar with is Maxwell’s famous c = ƒ λ (frequency times wavelength gives you a constant known as the speed of light). One macro-world architecture that can model this equation is a two-strand, DNA-like rope. The shorter we make the links (wavelength), the more links we can fit for a given length of rope (frequency). If we further factor Oersted and Faraday’s descriptions (also known as Faraday-Maxwell’s Law), that state that the magnetic ‘field’ runs orthogonally to the electric ‘field’ and one induces the other into being, we realize that the rope proposal is not so off-the-wall.
Let us assume that light has the configuration of a rope. The actual signal is a torsion propagating along this rope from atom to atom. The hypothesis is that every atom in the Universe is connected to all others via an electromagnetic rope.
Right off the bat, heretofore perplexing behaviors of light that we have observed in the lab ‘come to light’.
Q. Why does light travel straight while at the same time undulating like waves?
A. The torsion ‘travels’ along a taut rope.
Q. Why does light travel so fast?
A. Tie a rope between two walls at home and torque the rope. Film the experiment and see if you can detect when the signal reached the clothespin at the other end.
Q. How do we explain mystical EPR?
A. From your end the rope spins CW. From mine, it has no choice but to spin CCW.
And so on.
Once we replace ‘flow of particles’ with a rope model and propose that light consists of torsion signals propagating along these ropes and arriving at the atoms that comprise your eyes, we can suddenly explain the most fundamental behaviors of light. In contrast, we can explain almost none of the fundamental behaviors of light with particles rationally. The only reason we still have the particle around is that the mathematicians found this hypothesis very convenient to ‘explain’ every phenomenon of nature by placing its coordinates in an equation. It is the difference between Science and what the inheritors of Euclid and Pythagoras still do.
ICPST Presentation, Hong Kong, China, December 28 - 30, 2010.
The Rope Hypothesis Series