Monday, September 20, 2010

Light Has No Speed

A direct link to the above video is at

From light's point of view there is no space, no time, no mass. Light does not exist within the world of spacetime and matter.
- theoretical physicist and author Peter Russell

A direct link to the above video is at

Here's an interesting video, just over an hour long, featuring a presentation by theoretical physicist and author Peter Russell. At about the 46:25 mark he makes a point that I thought was particularly useful for the way it relates to my project. Here's what he says about Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity and the speed of light:

All observers experience the speed of light to be the same. The revolutionary thing that came out of that is that space and time are not constant, but vary with the speed of the observer. Space and time are not fixed.

So: when a stationary observer observes a ray of light going by, it goes 186,000 miles in one second. Somebody moving at 87% of the speed of light (this is just the way the mathematics work out) would see half that amount of distance, and half that amount of time: but the speed would still be the same (93,000 miles in half a second is the same as 186,000 miles in a second). Someone moving at 99.5% the speed of light sees a tenth of that: 18,600 miles in a tenth of a second. It's still the same speed.

What Einstein realized is there's something called the spacetime continuum, out of which both space and time appear. The spacetime continuum is not like space, it's not like time, it's not a mixture of the two, it's something we don't know and can't describe.

What we do know is the space and time that it gives rise to. But it never gives rise to the same amounts of space and time: different observers see differing amounts of space and time so space and time vary.

What Einstein showed is there's something in spacetime called the interval. It is like the equivalent of distance or seconds, but the interval is actually the subtraction of the square of space and time (s^2 - t^2), it's actually the square root of that. And that turns out to be constant. So in spacetime there is a constant, and the "distance" in spacetime never changes... although what we experience in space and time changes.

So this led to some more weird things about light.

What happens if you travel at 100% of the speed of light? If you look at the way things are going with our equations here, you'll see that light experiences itself traveling no distance in no time. From light's point of view, light does not exist within space-time: for a photon, birth and death are the same moment.

Light doesn't experience itself traveling through space and time. There is no non-locality for light because it's one phenomenon within one moment: this is light's point of view.

So. The reason for this is that the spacetime interval in the spacetime continuum for light is always zero: always zero. So from light's point of view there is no space, no time, no mass. Light does not exist within the world of spacetime and matter.

So what do we make of this thing called "c", this constant "speed"? I put speed in quotes deliberately because what we observe as speed, I don't think is speed at all. When I observe a light beam traveling from the back of the room to my eye, in spacetime the beginning and end of that light beam are the same: spacetime is bent so they are the same. In my frame of reference I stretch out that zero interval into space and time, and I always stretch out 186,000 miles of space for every second of time. If I'm traveling very fast I stretch out a smaller amount, very slow I stretch out a much larger amount, and so on.

So I don't think "c" is a speed at all. Rather, it's the constant ratio of the manifestation of space and time. For every 186,000 miles of space that appears, 1 second of time appears.

Immanuel Kant was on to this two hundred years ago. He said "Space and time are the framework within which the mind is constrained to construct its experience of reality".

The above presentation returns us yet again to the important idea that our reality is not continuous, and that when we look up into the sky at night we are looking back into time. From the photon's point of view, it took no time whatsoever for it to travel from that distant star to my retina. Isn't that an amazing concept to consider?

Enjoy the journey!

Rob Bryanton

Next: Cymatics, Gravity and Light


Irvin Aquino said...

For the God of the Bible..1 day is 'like' a thousand..not a rational 1 is to 1000..the blinking of an eye moment were dead bodies that became ashes eventualy wil be made whole again is a transitional unconciousness- 2 appreciation realism were for those witnessing wil be a spur of acknowledgment to the God of creation and order in ful realization for the psyche of those who wil 'see'.

Julia said...

That was a bit hard for me to follow logically, but the takeaway I think I got was cool. Mathematically, humans have shown that light = the void, OM, God, whatever you want to call IT.

But light is also manifest (like we all are, since we are made of it at our most elemental level) -- we can see it, measure it (particles or waves). So doesn't it follow that we are also IT, OM, God, whatever you want to call it?

What you have said means that light is both manifest and not manifest. Thus, we are both manifest and not manifest.

Was that circular reasoning? Makes sense to me :-)

Josh said...

To comment on your Kant quotation, here is a quote from V.I. Lenin in his 1905 work, materialism and empirio-criticism. I think it applies just as much in 2010..

""Space and time," says Feuerbach, "are not mere forms of phenomena but essential conditions of being" (Werke, II, S. 332). Regarding the sensible world we know through sensations as objective reality, Feuerbach naturally also rejects the phenomenalist (as Mach would call his own conception) or the agnostic (as Engels calls it) conception of space and time. Just as things or bodies are not mere phenomena, not complexes of sensations, but objective realities acting on our senses, so space and time are not mere forms of phenomena, but objectively real forms of being.

There is nothing in the world but matter in motion, and matter in motion cannot move otherwise than in space and time. Human conceptions of space and time are relative, but these relative conceptions go to compound absolute truth. These relative conceptions, in their development, move towards absolute truth and approach nearer and nearer to it. The mutability of human conceptions of space and time no more refutes the objective reality of space and time than the mutability of scientific knowledge of the structure and forms of matter in motion refutes the objective reality of the external world.

Engels, exposing the inconsistent and muddled materialist Dühring, catches him on the very point where he speaks of the change in the idea of time (a question beyond controversy for contemporary philosophers of any importance even of the most diverse philosophical trends) but evades a direct answer to the question: are space and time real or ideal, and are our relative conceptions of space and time approximations to objectively real forms of being; or are they only products of the developing, organising, harmonising, etc., human mind? This and this alone is the basic epistemological problem on which the truly fundamental philosophical trends are divided. "

This is not to say that space and time are not relative to the observer, that they are interchangeable, that time is actually space, or that there aren't dimensions beyond space and time, as the higher dimensions too are spatial. It's on the epistemological question: are space and time merely organizing forms of human experience, or are they essential conditions of existence? I would have to side with the latter, the materialist camp, rather than with Kantianism, "which in this question sides with idealism and regards time and space not as objective realities but as forms of human understanding".

"The basic forms of all being," Engels admonishes Dühring, "are space and time, and existence out of time is just as gross an absurdity as existence out of space"

One could easily replace "space and time" with "the ten dimensions of reality" and say "the ten dimensions of reality are not mere forms of human understanding, but essential forms of being, conditions of existence. Saying that the omniverse is just an idea in the mind is just as absurd as existence outside of the ten spatial dimensions."

Irvin Aquino said...

Cause and effect 'HE' or 'it' is, that creator or evolutionary happening must have an attitude..a deity or a persona..2 be exactly does an author in a theological aspect coincidentaly ascribe the 2 scientifc discoveries even 2 this remarkable age of peak of advancment in science..the deity 'christos' is crucified even since the world was staged accdg 2 bestseller book of all time-the Bible (but frequently unread), he was also crucified in multiple realities (eccle.3:15)including in sodom and egypt(rev.11:7-8 were at he is not yet in physical existence and apart from popular mountain crucifixion..a deity of cause and effect..the bread, and also made bread Instantly without baking flour.and many more..fable as it sounded 2 be.but the it fits the cause and effect paradigm..this blog even if not meant for such like my idea fr a Christian standpoint broadly fits Rob Bryanton's way of imagining..i think rob is the best, than those popular mainstream physicist..

Irvin Aquino said...

this kuya Rob is too good..ur up far d best, i think, without further investigatn 2 other mainstream physicist..coz u ruminate on the bedrock of the system of the whole creation including the future..'that 'no non locality'phrase u coined wer death n birth of a photon is a static happening is realy a signifcnt ur the man of physics of this new exciting and unprecendented new hype in physics..oh boy, u may hold the key fr the scientifc stndpoint..these r reconciliate 2 the could u?!I got so many Biblical enigmas. it fits..

Rob Bryanton said...

Wow, thanks for your comments everyone! This entry has generated a lot of discussion, in direct emails to me, in the comments here at the blog, and particularly over at facebook. Thanks for writing!

Anonymous said...

Maybe 10-12 years ago, I found myself in a thought experiment where I joined a photon in it's flight. When one is at "ultimate density" time is the solid and our matter is the holes in a sort of swiss cheese. Rather like George Smoot's observations of the time space membrane. - Rob, thank you so much.

kavalkid said...

Maybe 10-12 years ago, I found myself in a thought experiment where I joined a photon in it's flight. When one is at "ultimate density" time is the solid and our matter is the holes in a sort of swiss cheese. Rather like George Smoot's observations of the time space membrane. - Rob, thank you so much.

Pepe said...

i just started following your videos today and i found them very interesting so I saw like 5 straight, I was thinking about this post, and I get to the question, why should be start a 0, 1,2,3 and so on, why cant we be in the 8 out of 18 dimensions?, we are assuming one point will be the first dimension, whats before of that?. what happen if you don't have a location, and no space?, then it came to me the idea of that light exists in the really first dimension, the -1, so, the 10th dimension became the 11th one.
light does not exists without energy, so pure energy exists in the -2? I wouldn't say that, since this energy is just there I wont consider it a dimension. its something before the first one, (where light exists) but I don't thing it could be consider as one.

I wonder how wrong am I and why, also, if there is anyone else with the same thinking as I.

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