How Does Light Travel?

Article written: 19 May , 2016
Updated: 21 May , 2016

Ever since Democritus – a Greek philosopher who lived between the 5th and 4th century’s BCE – argued that all of existence was made up of tiny indivisible atoms, scientists have been speculating as to the true nature of light. Whereas scientists ventured back and forth between the notion that light was a particle or a wave until the modern, the 20th century led to breakthroughs that showed that it behaves as both.

These included the discovery of the electron, the development of quantum theory, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. However, there remains many fascinating and unanswered questions when it comes to light, many of which arise from its dual nature. For instance, how is it that light can be apparently without mass, but still behave as a particle? And how can it behave like a wave and pass through a vacuum, when all other waves require a medium to propagate?

Theory of Light to the 19th Century:

During the Scientific Revolution, scientists began moving away from Aristotelian scientific theories that had been seen as accepted canon for centuries. This included rejecting Aristotle’s theory of light, which viewed it as being a disturbance in the air (one of his four “elements” that composed matter), and embracing the more mechanistic view that light was composed of indivisible atoms.

In many ways, this theory had been previewed by atomists of Classical Antiquity – such as Democritus and Lucretius – both of whom viewed light as a unit of matter given off by the sun. By the 17th century, several scientists emerged who accepted this view, stating that light was made up of discrete particles (or “corpuscles”). This included Pierre Gassendi, a contemporary of René Descartes, Thomas Hobbes, Robert Boyle, and most famously, Sir Isaac Newton.

The first edition of Newton's Opticks: or, a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light (1704). Credit: Public Domain.

The first edition of Newton’s Opticks: or, a treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light (1704). Credit: Public Domain.

Newton’s corpuscular theory was an elaboration of his view of reality as an interaction of material points through forces. This theory would remain the accepted scientific view for more than 100 years, the principles of which were explained in his 1704 treatise “Opticks, or, a Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colours of Light“. According to Newton, the principles of light could be summed as follows:

  • Every source of light emits large numbers of tiny particles known as corpuscles in a medium surrounding the source.
  • These corpuscles are perfectly elastic, rigid, and weightless.

This represented a challenge to “wave theory”, which had been advocated by 17th century Dutch astronomer Christiaan Huygens. . These theories were first communicated in 1678 to the Paris Academy of Sciences and were published in 1690 in his Traité de la lumière (“Treatise on Light“). In it, he argued a revised version of Descartes views, in which the speed of light is infinite and propagated by means of spherical waves emitted along the wave front.

Double-Slit Experiment:

By the early 19th century, scientists began to break with corpuscular theory. This was due in part to the fact that corpuscular theory failed to adequately explain the diffraction, interference and polarization of light, but was also because of various experiments that seemed to confirm the still-competing view that light behaved as a wave.

The most famous of these was arguably the Double-Slit Experiment, which was originally conducted by English polymath Thomas Young in 1801 (though Sir Isaac Newton is believed to have conducted something similar in his own time). In Young’s version of the experiment, he used a slip of paper with slits cut into it, and then pointed a light source at them to measure how light passed through it.

According to classical (i.e. Newtonian) particle theory, the results of the experiment should have corresponded to the slits, the impacts on the screen appearing in two vertical lines. Instead, the results showed that the coherent beams of light were interfering, creating a pattern of bright and dark bands on the screen. This contradicted classical particle theory, in which particles do not interfere with each other, but merely collide.

The only possible explanation for this pattern of interference was that the light beams were in fact behaving as waves. Thus, this experiment dispelled the notion that light consisted of corpuscles and played a vital part in the acceptance of the wave theory of light. However subsequent research, involving the discovery of the electron and electromagnetic radiation, would lead to scientists considering yet again that light behaved as a particle too, thus giving rise to wave-particle duality theory.

Electromagnetism and Special Relativity:

Prior to the 19th and 20th centuries, the speed of light had already been determined. The first recorded measurements were performed by Danish astronomer Ole Rømer, who demonstrated in 1676 using light measurements from Jupiter’s moon Io to show that light travels at a finite speed (rather than instantaneously).

Prof. Albert Einstein uses the blackboard as he delivers the 11th Josiah Willard Gibbs lecture at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in the auditorium of the Carnegie Institue of Technology Little Theater at Pittsburgh, Pa., on Dec. 28, 1934. Using three symbols, for matter, energy and the speed of light respectively, Einstein offers additional proof of a theorem propounded by him in 1905 that matter and energy are the same thing in different forms. (AP Photo)

Prof. Albert Einstein delivering the 11th Josiah Willard Gibbs lecture at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on Dec. 28th, 1934. Credit: AP Photo

By the late 19th century, James Clerk Maxwell proposed that light was an electromagnetic wave, and devised several equations (known as Maxwell’s equations) to describe how electric and magnetic fields are generated and altered by each other and by charges and currents. By conducting measurements of different types of radiation (magnetic fields, ultraviolet and infrared radiation), he was able to calculate the speed of light in a vacuum (represented as c).

In 1905, Albert Einstein published “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”, in which he advanced one of his most famous theories and overturned centuries of accepted notions and orthodoxies. In his paper, he postulated that the speed of light was the same in all inertial reference frames, regardless of the motion of the light source or the position of the observer.

Exploring the consequences of this theory is what led him to propose his theory of Special Relativity, which reconciled Maxwell’s equations for electricity and magnetism with the laws of mechanics, simplified the mathematical calculations, and accorded with the directly observed speed of light and accounted for the observed aberrations. It also demonstrated that the speed of light had relevance outside the context of light and electromagnetism.

For one, it introduced the idea that major changes occur when things move close the speed of light, including the time-space frame of a moving body appearing to slow down and contract in the direction of motion when measured in the frame of the observer. After centuries of increasingly precise measurements, the speed of light was determined to be 299,792,458 m/s in 1975.

Einstein and the Photon:

In 1905, Einstein also helped to resolve a great deal of confusion surrounding the behavior of electromagnetic radiation when he proposed that electrons are emitted from atoms when they absorb energy from light. Known as the photoelectric effect, Einstein based his idea on Planck’s earlier work with “black bodies” – materials that absorb electromagnetic energy instead of reflecting it (i.e. white bodies).

At the time, Einstein’s photoelectric effect was attempt to explain the “black body problem”, in which a black body emits electromagnetic radiation due to the object’s heat. This was a persistent problem in the world of physics, arising from the discovery of the electron, which had only happened eight years previous (thanks to British physicists led by J.J. Thompson and experiments using cathode ray tubes).

At the time, scientists still believed that electromagnetic energy behaved as a wave, and were therefore hoping to be able to explain it in terms of classical physics. Einstein’s explanation represented a break with this, asserting that electromagnetic radiation behaved in ways that were consistent with a particle – a quantized form of light which he named “photons”. For this discovery, Einstein was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1921.

Wave-Particle Duality:

Subsequent theories on the behavior of light would further refine this idea, which included French physicist Louis-Victor de Broglie calculating the wavelength at which light functioned. This was followed by Heisenberg’s “uncertainty principle” (which stated that measuring the position of a photon accurately would disturb measurements of it momentum and vice versa), and Schrödinger’s paradox that claimed that all particles have a “wave function”.

In accordance with quantum mechanical explanation, Schrodinger proposed that all the information about a particle (in this case, a photon) is encoded in its wave function, a complex-valued function roughly analogous to the amplitude of a wave at each point in space. At some location, the measurement of the wave function will randomly “collapse”, or rather “decohere”, to a sharply peaked function. This was illustrated in Schrödinger famous paradox involving a closed box, a cat, and a vial of poison (known as the “Schrödinger Cat” paradox).

In this illustration, one photon (purple) carries a million times the energy of another (yellow). Some theorists predict travel delays for higher-energy photons, which interact more strongly with the proposed frothy nature of space-time. Yet Fermi data on two photons from a gamma-ray burst fail to show this effect. The animation below shows the delay scientists had expected to observe. Credit: NASA/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet

Artist’s impression of two photons travelling at different wavelengths, resulting in different- colored light. Credit: NASA/Sonoma State University/Aurore Simonnet

According to his theory, wave function also evolves according to a differential equation (aka. the Schrödinger equation). For particles with mass, this equation has solutions; but for particles with no mass, no solution existed. Further experiments involving the Double-Slit Experiment confirmed the dual nature of photons. where measuring devices were incorporated to observe the photons as they passed through the slits.

When this was done, the photons appeared in the form of particles and their impacts on the screen corresponded to the slits – tiny particle-sized spots distributed in straight vertical lines. By placing an observation device in place, the wave function of the photons collapsed and the light behaved as classical particles once more. As predicted by Schrödinger, this could only be resolved by claiming that light has a wave function, and that observing it causes the range of behavioral possibilities to collapse to the point where its behavior becomes predictable.

The development of Quantum Field Theory (QFT) was devised in the following decades to resolve much of the ambiguity around wave-particle duality. And in time, this theory was shown to apply to other particles and fundamental forces of interaction (such as weak and strong nuclear forces). Today, photons are part of the Standard Model of particle physics, where they are classified as boson – a class of subatomic particles that are force carriers and have no mass.

So how does light travel? Basically, traveling at incredible speeds (299 792 458 m/s) and at different wavelengths, depending on its energy. It also behaves as both a wave and a particle, able to propagate through mediums (like air and water) as well as space. It has no mass, but can still be absorbed, reflected, or refracted if it comes in contact with a medium. And in the end, the only thing that can truly divert it, or arrest it, is gravity (i.e. a black hole).

What we have learned about light and electromagnetism has been intrinsic to the revolution which took place in physics in the early 20th century, a revolution that we have been grappling with ever since. Thanks to the efforts of scientists like Maxwell, Planck, Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrodinger, we have learned much, but still have much to learn.

For instance, its interaction with gravity (along with weak and strong nuclear forces) remains a mystery. Unlocking this, and thus discovering a Theory of Everything (ToE) is something astronomers and physicists look forward to. Someday, we just might have it all figured out!

We have written many articles about light here at Universe Today. For example, here’s How Fast is the Speed of Light?, How Far is a Light Year?, What is Einstein’s Theory of Relativity?

If you’d like more info on light, check out these articles from The Physics Hypertextbook and NASA’s Mission Science page.

We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Interstellar Travel. Listen here, Episode 145: Interstellar Travel.

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56 Responses

  1. 2 Sun says


    it travels lightly. 😀

  2. Marcus999 says

    Light doesn’t exist. This is an observation from light’s point of view and not ours. Traveling at the speed of (wait for it) light, absolutely no time passes between leaving it’s source and reaching it’s destination for the photon. This means, to the photon hitting your retina, it is also still on that star you are observing 10 light years away. How is this possible? Maybe John Wheeler was right when he told Richard Feynman that there is only one electron in the universe and it travels forward in time as an electron, then back in time as a positron and every electron we see is the same electron.

    • don j says

      MY QUESTION IS: Whether light is a wave , particle or both.. where does it get the energy to move through space/time. In other words is the energy of light infinite? Does it continue on without lose of energy…..forever…….

      • MrWhizard says

        I believe that Special Relativity says that the energy of light is infinite due to the very fact it has no mass. E=MC^2

        In reverse, this is also why something with mass to begin with. If accelerated toward the speed of light, will see their mass and gravity increase to infinite points as they near relativistic speed (it actually starts around 95% with a steep upward curve from there), with a relative slowing to a stop of time.

      • John says

        Join the discussion

    • Brad Holkesvig says

      Light and the universe are only illusions that are formed in our minds via technology that sends information from the simulation program we’re living in. That information comes in the form of invisible wavelengths that includes wavelengths that we perceive as light. The visible retinas in our eyes are like tiny video screens where these particles are arranged into patterns that form into all the various objects we think are real objects. This information is also converted into thoughts within our minds which are like computer processors that process that information.

      We are living in a computer simulation that is much more advanced than anything the characters in the program have built according to the information called the Beast.

      • Nathan S. says

        Brad,…So You’re suggesting that “life” as we know and call it “is some kind of retro-virus” or “bio-intelligent format” heaped upon a perceived “set of accepted data sets” that are not in sync with each other in most cases with exception to Math 94% of the time….Even then it can vary which suggests Your idea would mean we all live in a fairy tale. That is what you suggest,…right?……

      • scott says

        Brad has watched the Matrix too many times.

  3. Fred S says

    Correction: Even gravity doesn’t slow light down.
    Light (EM radiation of any wavelength) always travels at speed c, relative to any local inertial (Lorentz) frame.
    It could also be noted that the wavelength of an EM wave is not a characteristic of that wave alone; it also depends on the state of motion of the observer.
    You might even say, “One man’s radio wave is another man’s gamma ray.”

    • nerdrage says

      Light actually “slows down” every time it has to travel through anything but a vacuum. Look up Cherenkov radiation to see what happens when light initially travels faster than it can through a particular substance, like water. Light speed is not constant when traveling through any medium except pure vacuum. In fact that is why your pencil looks bent when you drop it in a glass of water. Light bends to find it’s fastest path through any medium, and it slows down in that medium.

  4. gene says

    if all you scientist could ever get it in your pie brain that there is no time, no light speed, no warping space, no black holes for the purpose of moving through space quickly, no smallest no biggest when it comes to space and that all of everything has always been in existence but not necessarily as it is now. you will never find the smallest because if it exist it has an inside, and you will never find the end of space because it is infinite.

  5. The article started out nicely, but I lost interest as mistakes began to appear. First Einstein did not “propose” the photoelectric effect. The photoelectric effect was first observed by Heinrich Hertz in 1887. Einstein used the idea of photons to explain the photoelectric effect and derive the photoelectric equation. Also, Max Plank had already derived the blackbody distribution, by assuming that electromagnetic energy of frequency f could only be emitted in multiples of energy E=hf, by 1900. Einstein’s paper on the photoelectric effect was published in his “miracle” year of 1905. The photoelectric effect has nothing to do with black body radiation.

    Einstein did not coin the name “photons” for light quanta, as stated in this article. This term was first used by Arthur Compton in 1928.

    I have to say that I do not know what the author of the article means when he says ” calculating the wavelength at which light functioned” in reference to Louis-Victor de Broglie. Louis de Broglie used the dual nature of light to suggest that electrons, previously thought of as particles, also had wave characteristics and used this notion to explain the Bohr orbits in the hydrogen atom.

    I gave up on the article after seeing these errors. I’m afraid I have a low tolerance for sloppy writing.

  6. mecheng1 says

    Oh, it’s BCE now, “Before the Common Era” BC has worked for 2000 years but now the PC police have stepped in so as not to offend who? Some Muslims?

    • Pablo Consuelos says

      mecheng1, you must be very young. BCE has been in used in academia for decades. It’s nothing “new”, just out of your circle of knowledge.

      • latrese McCowen says

        Decades??? Really?? How does that compare to 2000 years?

      • Member
        TomArt says

        Only in Euro-centric texts have your assertions been true, McCowen. The rest of the world not influenced by Christianity have used their own calendars and a “0” year or a “year 1” from which to reckon the passage of time, largely based on their own religions or celestial observations.

        Over the last century or so, through commerce, most of the world has generally accepted the use of a Western calendar (or use it along with their own for domestic purposes, like we here in the US still use Imperial units of measure that have to be converted to metric for international commerce). So, we are in a “common era” insofar as non-Christian societies are incorporating the Gregorian Calendar and the generally-accepted “year 1” established by that calendar (which is supposed to be the year of Jesus’s birth, but it probably isn’t according to current scholarship). Besides, the Gregorian calendar is an improved derivative of the Roman calendar – even the names of the months come from the Romans.

        In short, it is more accurate, as well as respectful, to go with BCE in these global times.

  7. Sam says

    Where is the information carried on a photon hitting my eye(s), or cluster/group/pack of photons hitting my eyes(s), that I see as other distant galaxies and planets going around stars?

    • nerdrage says

      That’s the mystery, isn’t it? Even in scattering, light remains coherent enough to convey an enormous amount of information.

  8. Tim says

    Since the miniscule equal masses with opposite charges, that make up the photon structure, interact at 90 degrees, this induces a spin (a finding from the 80’s by the LANL plasma physics program) which creates a centrifugal force that counterbalances the charge attraction of the opposite charges. This establishes a stable structure for energies less than 1.0216 MeV, the pair-formation threshold, separating these “neutrino” sub-components by a specific distance providing wavelengths varying with photon energy. This composite photon propagates transversely at c/n, the speed of light divided by the index of refraction of the material traversed. In spite of the mass being defined as zero, for convenience in calculating atomic masses, there is actually an infinitesimal but non-zero mass for the photon that is required for calculations that describe its properties.

  9. edison says

    i would like to know the temperature in a black hole…maybe absolute zero? is absolute zero the moment that time stop?

    • JALNIN says

      I think the temp inside a black hole would be extremely high since temperature seems to increase with mass. Comparing absolute zero to time stopping is very interesting though. To the observer they would appear the same.

    • MrWhizard says

      Theoretically there is no temperature in a black hole from any observer POV because time is stopped. Although JALNIN does bring up that point, and he also brings up the point of increasing mass corresponding to increasing energy. Everything in Hawking and Einstein’s equations though, suggest that any energy would be absorbed back by the singularity, so there wouldn’t be any heat. In fact it should be infinitely cold. But time is no more, so technically no heat or energy is emitted anyway from any observers POV. Yet recent images of black holes from Chandra show that they emit powerful Gamma Jets along their spin axis just like Neutron stars, and Pulsars. BTW edison. The accretion disk can reach temperatures of 20MN Kelvin on a feeding SM black hole (quasar). NASA just published an article on it through the Chandra feed a while back.

  10. Pablo Consuelos says

    Light doesn’t travel, it just IS. It is we, the condensed matter, that travels, through time.

  11. David Le says

    I wish I understood just a portion of I just read, love sicence so bad BUT, sighs

    • nerdrage says

      It would be easier to understand if it wasn’t pure gibberish written by someone with no science background.

  12. mark lama says

    I have two “mind-bending relativity side effects” to share. At least they are mind-bending to me.

    1) Light travels the same speed relative to all particles of mass, regardless of how those particles move relative to each other:

    I can conceptualize this if we are only talking about two mass-particles/observers and the examples I’ve seen always involve only two observers. But if you have many mass-particles/observers, how does the space-time seem to know to adjust differently for all of them. I am sure i am understanding this correctly as it is a basic concept of special relativity and nobody seems to bring this issue up. But it “bends my mind” when i try to include more than two observers. Maybe you can help.

    2) General Relativity’s (“GR”) prediction that the big bang started with “Infinite” energy and now the universe appears to have finite mass energy and Regarding the first effect: How can something infinite turn into something finite? Is the answer that at that early in the universe, quantum takes over and GR’s prediction of infinite mass-energy at the start of the universe is just wrong?

    Thank you,

    Mark L.

    • mark lama says

      I need to correct a typo in my previous comment. Where i say “i am sure am understanding this correctly” I meant to include the word NOT. so it should read “i am sure am NOT understanding this correctly”
      Mark L.

    • Nathan S. says

      Mark,….I think you’re understanding it just fine from the standpoint of multiple observers, The point might be that in space, the density of “emptiness” or “lack of emptiness” might be impacted from one area of observation to another by an observer who’s perceptions are not equal but not being taken into consideration by each observer. ( an example if I may?) If you were to use a Clear medium which is oil based beginning with 5 gallons of mineral spirits in a large barrel and keep adding 5 gallons of thicker clear oil and then heavy grease and stop with using a clear heavy wax,…what happens is you end up with a barrel of clear fluid that begins with a floating substrate but the liquid begins to keep floating and the heaviest stuff goes to the bottom,…You end up with a sort of solid tube of clear fluids which if you could keep them in shape here on the earth, “you could observe them” from several positions, #1. the fluid end #2, the less fluid part, #3, the semi solid part #4. the seemingly solid part #5. the almost solid part & #6. the solid part……all of which would be transparent….You could then shine a laser through all of it and perhaps do that again from different places and see what happens at different angles…..I think what happens as a result would be, an observer would end up be influenced as per his or her ideas thusly because of the quasi-nature of what the density of space is at the point of space is where the observation is made. just a guess.

    • MrWhizard says

      All Special Relativity really says about light is that it appears to move at the same rate from any observer POV. There are other more advanced rules relating to light speeds. One of them is the implication of infinite energy in a photon because of the fact it’s mass-less, therefore it can move at the maximum rate a mass-less particle or wave can (not necessarily that it does) Later when the electron was discovered (also mass-less particle or wave), it was also found to conform to the rules of special relativity.

      As far as the big bang, there are a lot of cracks in that theory, and many different ones are beginning to dispute some of the common ideas behind the “Big Bang” as well as “Inflationary Cosmology”. Honestly though, both standard and quantum physics applied, and yet both went out the window at the same time at some point. That’s what all the theories really say. At some point, everything we know or think we know was bunk, because the math just breaks down, and doesn’t work right anymore.

  13. moonpup says

    i think until there is an understanding of the actual “fabric” of space itself, the wave vs particle confusion will continue. another interesting article recently was the half integer values of rotating light. planck’s constant was broken? gravity? a bump in the data? lol these are interesting times.

    • nerdrage says

      There’s no fabric.

      • Richardg says

        Tesla insists there is an aether, Einstein says not.
        Tesla enjoyed far less trial and error than Einstein. The vast majority of Tesla’s projects worked the first time around and required no development or experimentation. I’ll go with Tesla; there is an aether as a fabric of space.

  14. curt says

    Maybe Special Relativity is not correct? 🙂

  15. nerdrage says

    Feynman said unequivocally that QED is NOT a wave theory. In fact, the math only looks like Maxwell’s wave function when you are looking at a single particle at a time, but the analogy breaks down as soon as you start looking at the interactions of more than one, which is the real case. There’s no light acting alone, but always an interaction between a photon and some other particle, an electron, another photon, or whatever. He said “light is particles.” So the question re: how can light travel through a vacuum if it’s waves is a nonsensical question. There are no collapsing wave functions in light. There’s only probabilities of position that look like waves on a freaking piece of paper. Even calling light properties as “wavelengths” is nonsensical. Light comes in frequencies, i.e., the number of particles traveling tightly together. Higher frequency is more energy because it’s more particles (E=MC[squared]). “Wavicles” is pure bullshit.

  16. JALNIN says

    I don’t agree with the John Wheeler theory that there is only one electron since the computer I am using was built by ion implantation and uses a very large number of them simultaneously to function.

  17. Adam says

    Black holes don’t stop or slow light, if they even exist. A black hole could phase shift light, which is why we see things emitting xrays and call them black holes….but they could be something else too.

  18. charles stein says

    Photons have no mass but they do have energy. Energy and mass are transformable into each other. Gravity works on energy as well as mass. As massive particles approach the speed of light their measurable mass increases to infinity. But since energy is equivalent to mass, why doesn’t the photon, which has energy, not seem to have infinite mass?

  19. John Carl Johnson says

    NO other wave travels thru a vacuum? what about radio?

    • krenshala says

      Radio waves are a specific frequency range of light.

    • MrWhizard says

      Technically speaking, radio waves are emitted at various frequencies that share the same space time as light. They are not however light. They’re modulated electrons. Modulated photons certainly can be used to carry a vast amount of information a great distance. It cannot do it any faster or better than a radio wave though. Both electrons and photons are mass-less, therefore they both conform to the rules of Special Relativity in the same way. Both travel at the speed of light.

  20. OVVYYYXXXX says

    I just don’t understand is it a particle of a wave?
    It seems like it behaves like wave and sometimes like particle and in some situations is like a what ever you are going to call it.

    So, the logical idea would to have formula
    Photon_influence * weight_for_particle + Wave_influence * weight_for_wave

    Make it more compact.

  21. Stephen Farrugia says

    This article is good but the title is bad as by the end we still weren’t told how light travels through space. Also, there are some historical mistakes as already pointed out. Now for my contribution: I think that light and Gravity have a lot in common; for one – an atom’s electrons transmit light and an atom contains the tiny heavy place that knows everything there is to know about gravity, that is, the nucleus. Light and Gravity are both related to the same entity, the atom. Unfortunately, we, still cannot grasp how what’s heavy brings about gravitation. For those of you with a creed for new ideas go to:
    It’s a hypothesis…


  22. Bloopo says

    Gravity and light are infinite, like space and time…
    Mind the concept that there are waves within waves, motions within motion, vibrations within vibration, endless overtones and universal harmony…

  23. Mark says

    From this article, I have “And in the end, the only thing that can truly slow down or arrest the speed of light is gravity”

    Doesn’t light slow down in water and glass and other mediums. I was only a Physics minor, but I do remember coivering this though way back in the early 80’s. And in my quick checking online, I found the following.

    “Light travels at approximately 300,000 kilometers per second in a vacuum, which has a refractive index of 1.0, but it slows down to 225,000 kilometers per second in water (refractive index = 1.3; see Figure 1) and 200,000 kilometers per second in glass (refractive index of 1.5).”

    Were they saying something else here. I did like the article.

  24. jcwi63 says

    Photons are not massless, but their mass is incredibly small even compared to a proton or neutron. So, by Einstein’s E=MC^2, the energy required for a photon to move is greatly reduced, but photons do have mass and are affected by gravity. If photons had no mass at all, then gravity would have no affect on them, but gravity does. Gravity bends light and can change it’s course through space. We see that in the actual test first performed to prove Einstein’s theory buy observing the distorted placement of stars as their light passes near the sun observed during an eclipse. We can also see it through gravitational lensing when viewing deeps space objects. And the fact that there are black holes that are black because light cannot escape it’s gravity. So photons do have mass, be it miniscule, and with that their propagation with light waves through space will eventually run out of energy and stop. but this would probably require distances greater to several widths of our universe to accomplish. Light from the furthest reaches of the universe are not as bright, or as energetic, as they are at anyplace between here and their origins. That reduction in their energy is also attributed to Einstein’s equation and the inverse square law, where the intensity of light is in relation to the inverse square of the distance. That proves that light looses energy the further it travels, but it still moves at the speed of light. As light looses energy, it doesn’t slow the light wave.

    • ezscott says

      It has been proven that more energetic light does in fact travel slightly faster. You can find the experiments done with light that has traveled billions of light years, the more energetic is in fact faster over a number of seconds, around 10 -15 or so. As people encounter this information, they see that many accepted theories can now be debunked.

  25. scott says

    The point of the article is nothing new; light acts like a particle AND a beam. So when you sit behind a closed door and someone shines a light on the door, the light will engulf the door and wave through and around the edges, the particle does not just bounce straight back. You can focus a beam of light on an object, but it will sneak though the corners and underneath the door, through any opening,. And yes, light travels forever. It is a constant, that cannot be sped up. We can slow it down by focusing it through prisims or crystals. But it still is traveling at 186,000/MPS.and that speed does not change. So, that is why we can see the outer edge of the universe: 13,8B light years away *the time that it takes for light to travel in one year, is one light year. So, it has taken 13,8B light years for the light of other galaxies to get here, so those galaxies could be gone by now, since it took so long to reach us, We are truly looking back in time as we see the light emitted from those galaxies and stars.

  26. altizar says

    It propagates through the quantum mish-mash know as the aether . . .

  27. Will says

    If light is a particle and particles have mass why does not the mas increase with it speed?

  28. Member
    TomArt says

    Wow…there are errors in the article, yes…the enthusiasm demonstrated by all the comments is encouraging…but when I read these comments, I am a bit dismayed at the lack of understanding that is evident in most of them…confusing energy and intensity and wavelength…confusing rest mass and inertial mass…not to mention some off-the-wall hypotheses with no experimental evidence to support them. There are some great primers out there…books, documentaries, podcasts (like Astronomy Cast). Good luck!

    • Aria says

      Precisely correct.
      Sci-fi rules basic physics, which reflects on the poor education system. Pity.

  29. OVVYYYXXXX says

    First time I heard about A. A. and his theory about light I really didn’t like him.
    Because light was the the fastest thing in the universe and there is no other thing faster than the light.
    Later, when I have red about angular speed I have asked my self if you have linear and angular speed and both of them are speeds how that will result in the maximum speed.
    Since then, I have not had a chance to get right answer.

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