Archive for
February 2019

Comments for Sunday, February 24, 2019, thru Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019:

February 28, 2019 - Yesterday, when I did my daily visit to NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website, I was presented with this image:

polarized light from the Orion Nebula

It shows polarized light coming from the Orion Nebula.  The explanation that came with the picture was as follows:

Can magnetism affect how stars form? Recent analysis of Orion data from the HAWC+ instrument on the airborne SOFIA observatory indicate that, at times, it can. HAWC+ is able to measure the polarization of far-infrared light which can reveal the alignment of dust grains by expansive ambient magnetic fields. In the featured image, these magnetic fields are shown as curvy lines superposed on an infrared image of the Orion Nebula taken by a Very Large Telescope in Chile. Orion's Kleinmann-Low Nebula is visible slightly to the upper right of the image center, while bright stars of the Trapezium cluster are visible just to the lower left of center. The Orion Nebula at about l300 light years distant is the nearest major star formation region to the Sun.
I must have stared at that picture for at least an hour.  I just couldn't wrap my brain around it.  The polarization was caused by the alignment of dust grains and the magnetic fields associated with those grains?  So, it's just like a polarizing lens created by stretching a polymer.  And that means the stretched polymer lenses in 3D movie glasses also have aligned magnetic fields, and that is what polarizes the light.  I know all that, but I've never seen polarized light presented as it is in the picture.  I guess I just need time for the implications to sink in. 

So much to do, so little time to do it! 

February 27, 2019
- This morning I woke up wondering about photons acting as "glue" inside atoms.  How come photons are never shown in illustrations of atoms?  I've looked at hundreds of illustrations of atoms, and not a single one of them shows photons.  Here is an illustration of a sodium atom:

Sodium atom

Note that the electrons all have positive charges, and the protons in the nucleus all have positive charges.  The neutrons in the nucleus supposedly have no charge and are thereby neutral.  Yet, the neutrons somehow keep the positive charged protons from flying away from each other.

The illustration above is misleading, since the protons and neutrons are not lined up in rows as the illustration shows.  The photons and neutrons are actually bundled together in the center to form the nucleus, but not exactly the way shown in the illustration below.
Sodum atom - version 2
The illustration above is incorrect, of course, because we can see (and count) all of the protons and neutrons.  In reality, they would be in the form of a tight ball and some particles would be hidden behind others in the illustration (which means we could not see and count them).

The real problem is that you can look at atom illustration after atom illustration and the question still is: Where are the photons?

Just as in the nucleus, something has to keep the negatively charged electrons from repelling each other and flying away.  Here is how Professor Sean Carroll at Cal-Tech describes the situation:
There are two kinds of elementary particles in the universe: bosons and fermions. Bosons don’t mind sitting on top of each other, sharing the same space. In principle, you could pile an infinite number of bosons into the tiniest bucket. Fermions, on the other hand, don’t share space: only a limited number of fermions would fit into the bucket.

Matter, as you might guess, is made of fermions, which stack to form three-dimensional structures. The force fields that bind fermions to each other are made of bosons. Bosons are the glue holding matter together.
Electrons, protons and neutrons are fermions.  They contain the mass of the atom.  And photons are the bosons holding a sodium atom together.  They are the "glue" that keeps the negatively charged electrons from flying away from each other, and they might also be the "repellent" that keeps the negative electrons from binding with the positive protons.

The only way I can see this working is if the photon works as it is generally described, with a fluctuating magnetic field and a fluctuating electric field that operate at right angles to one another:
                      field fluctuations
The fluctuating electric field glues the electrons to each other and to the protons in the nucleus while the fluctuating magnetic field keeps the electrons and protons from getting too close to one another.  All the fields in the atom fluctuate at the same vibration rate, so there is no way for an electron to get released between fluctuations.

And that brings us back to how atoms emit light.

How light is created

There's a photon gluing the outermost electron to the other electrons in the atom.  When a photon from the outside hits the atom, there is too much "glue" holding the outermost electron to the other electrons and there is too much "repellent" pushing the electron away from the nucleus.  The atom, therefore, immediately ejects a photon in order to re-stabilize itself.

While the photon's fields just fluctuated (at the speed of light) within the confines of the atom when it acted as "glue," when a photon is ejected its unconfined electric and magnetic fields immediately extend to their maximum diameters, pushing the photon away from the atom at the speed of light. 

Okay, that all makes sense to me.  I'll have to research it further to look for flaws in the theory.  And I'll have to figure out how to show an illustration of an atom with its internal photons.  Clearly this illustration doesn't do it:

atom absorbing photon
It says there are no boson photons acting as "glue."  It says the electron absorbs the photon, giving the electron too much energy.  And then the electron ejects the photon.  The problem is that this explanation doesn't explain what keeps the negatively charged electrons bound to the atom, while not merged with the positively charged protons in the nucleus.  It seems to conflict with the boson "glue" theory.   
Or maybe I'm still not understanding something.

February 26, 2019
- I can't stop thinking about the image of a photon I created for my Sunday comment.  It has electric and magnetic fields surrounding a nucleus, which I see now was incorrect.  A magnet is a magnet.  Its magnetic field is not part of the magnet.  The magnet generates the field.  It is not a nucleus.  And so it must be with a photon.  The photon is what generates the fields.  The fields are not the photon.  So, here is a corrected illustration of a photon and its electric and magnetic fields:
Light photon with its fields
Everything else I wrote about photons on Sunday remains the same.  But since then I've been thinking about bosons.  A photon is an elementary particle that is classified as a "boson".  Wikipedia says this about bosons:
In quantum mechanics, a boson is a particle that follows Bose–Einstein statistics. Bosons make up one of the two classes of particles, the other being fermions.  ... Examples of bosons include fundamental particles such as photons, gluons, and W and Z bosons (the four force-carrying gauge bosons of the Standard Model), the recently discovered Higgs boson, and the hypothetical graviton of quantum gravity. ... An important characteristic of bosons is that their statistics do not restrict the number of them that occupy the same quantum state.
A college course guidebook titled "Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe" by Professor Sean Carroll of Cal-Tech says this on page 24:
Photons are what hold electrons together with atomic nuclei.
and this on page 25:
Force-carrying particles are called bosons after Satyendra Nath Bose; photons and gluons are examples.  Unlike fermions, bosons can pile up on top of each other, which is exactly what happens when we observe a macroscopic force field, such as an electric or magnetic field. Such a field is a large number of bosons, each contributing just a little bit, that combine to create a noticeable amount of force. One of the great conceptual unifications of physics is the realization that photons, in various configurations, can account for so much—electric and magnetic fields, light waves and other forms of electromagnetic radiation, as well as radiative heat.
Hmm.  That says that, while waves supposedly interfere with one another, photons do not. That certainly makes sense if you visualize countless photons from countless stars passing through a spot in space.  They must either travel through one another as if the others were not there, or they must somehow glide around one another.  And yet, if you add a photon to a stable atom, the atom will not be able to contain that photon and will eject it.  Supposedly, that is because it already has the maximum number of photons holding the electrons to the nucleus.

Technically, I suppose, the photons do not interfere with one another. But they do not merge, either, as waves are fantasized to do.  One photon can push aside another, but only inside an atom.  Or do they also push aside each other when meeting in space, instead of passing through one another?  It's difficult to imagine two photons almost colliding in space, but one just side-steps or slides around the other without altering its course and while traveling at the speed of light.  But that makes more sense then two photons passing through each other.

Photons change their orientation while traveling at the speed of light when they are polarized, and they do it without changing direction.  However, photons change their direction slightly while traveling at the speed of light when they pass near a relatively large gravitational mass.  It's called refraction.

One thing photons do NOT do is annihilate each other, as waves are fantasized to do in the Double Slit Experiment when the crest of one wave combines with the trough of another wave to create the dark lines on the wall.  It is a fundamental law that energy cannot be destroyed, but the wave model does it when crests meet troughs.  With a photon model (or electron model), the dark lines are simply shadows where no photons (or electrons) hit.

The Double Slit Experiment
The Double Slit Experiment

But, I'm just rambling.  I need to write this all down in a paper.  Writing it here first helps organize my thoughts, but the objective is to get into the form of a scientific paper.

Added note: Professor Sean Carroll has a podcast called "Mindscape" which contains terrific interviews.  I just downloaded about 20 hours worth, which I'll listen to when and where I can find the time.

February 25, 2019
- At about 8:30 p.m. last night, I finished listening to another science fiction audio book on my MP3 player.  It was "Future Crime" by Ben Bova:

Future Crime by Ben Bova
The book consists of two novellas with a half dozen short stories in between.  I wasn't in the mood to start with a novella, so over the course of two days I listened to the six short stories first, then the novella ("Escape") that ends the book, and then the novella ("City of Darkness") that starts the book.  It's a good thing that I did things that way, because if I had started with "City of Darkness," I would probably never have listened any further. 

All the stories are imaginings of how crimes would take place in the future.  It's not about detectives in future, it's more about sociology.  "Brillo," is probably the best story in the book.  It's about a robot cop (named "Brillo" because he is metal "fuzz") being taken along on patrol to learn the ropes of being a police officer.  The human cop who is in charge can't make the robot understand the nuances of the job, i.e., when to arrest and when to just warn someone.  The robot does everything according to the law, which leads to one problem after another.  "City of Darkness" is about New York City in the distant future when it has been abandoned, covered over with a glass dome, and turned into a museum that people can visit in the summertime.  At the end you learn that the city wasn't actually abandoned, all the white people moved out and imprisoned the blacks inside.  A white tourist gets his ID stolen while visiting the city during the summer.  No one is allowed out of the dome without a proper ID, and violators are automatically sent to prison for life (which is totally unbelievable in itself).  So, the tourist has to remain inside the dome.  That's when he finds out the whole city is run by street gangs, both black and white, who remain inside the dome all year round.  The blacks living in the dome are called "Muslims," presumably because Black Muslims were considered to be a problem when the novella was originally published in 1976.  And they are basically the "good guys" in the story who save the main character.  I'm not sure what the lesson is, but I cannot recommend the book.  

February 24, 2019
- Last Sunday, I wrote a long comment about how it makes no sense for an atom to absorb or emit a particle or wave that is more than a thousand times larger than the atom.  Yet, that is how light photons are generally thought to be created:

How light is created

A sodium atom that is 0.38 nanometers in diameter will supposedly emit a yellow light wave that has a wavelength of 580 nanometers, which is 1,526 times the size of the sodium atom.  That 580 nanometer wave can then be absorbed and re-emitted by a silver atom in a mirror, even though the silver atom is just 0.33 nanometers in diameter, or 1,758 times smaller than the wave.

How can that make sense to anyone?

I asked myself that question, slept on it, and awoke with the only answer that my subconscious mind could come up with.  And it involved a radically different view of a photon.

Here is what one source says a photon supposedly looks like:


I've used the illustration many times in arguments, but it makes no sense to me anymore.  According to the web page source of the image, "In quantum theory, we can observe that waves also have particle properties. The photon is the particle of the wave. It is a fixed amount of energy depending only on the frequency of the wave."  Huh?

To me, fields do not exist all by themselves.  Magnetic fields surround a source of magnetism, a typically a magnet.  And according to Wikipedia, "An electric field (sometimes abbreviated as E-field) is a vector field surrounding an electric charge that exerts force on other charges, attracting or repelling them."

The fields in the illustration above surround nothing.  They just exist because the waves supposedly exist.  But there are no waves, so the whole thing is nonsense!

The way my subconscious saw things, the energy fields must surround the source of the energy.  My subconscious had produced a very different vision of a photon.  When I woke up, I took the above illustration and changed it to have the fields surround a nucleus.  Like so:

A photon
                    with a nucleus and fields
When viewed this way, everything suddenly makes sense.  Now an atom can easily absorb a photon by simply absorbing the nucleus.  The photon's nucleus can be about the size of an electron.  What is viewed as being a photon in books and papers is actually the fields surrounding the nucleus.  The atom just needs to absorb the nucleus. When an atom does that, the fields surrounding the nucleus are either absorbed along with the nucleus or they are simply turned off. 

When scientists measure light wavelengths, they are measuring diameters of electric fields.  

So, I can now visualize a photon as a tiny nucleus of stored energy surrounded by electric and magnetic fields.  However, unlike the image I just created above, the fields are NOT two dimensional.  In reality, the electric field is just strongest at the vertical and gets weaker the further it is from vertical.  And the magnetic field is strongest at the horizontal, and gets weaker the further it is from horizontal.  So, the fields that surround the photon are most likely in the form of sphere.  Or, if the magnetic field is weaker than the electric field, it can be in the shape of a spheroid or flattened sphere. 

And it is now easy to see how a photon can pass through solid glass.  The tiny nucleus easily passes between and through the spaces inside the much larger atoms which have no effect on the fields surrounding the nucleus.  Everything slows down a bit in the thicker medium, but the photon is otherwise unaffected.

I need to think about it a lot more.  It seems so simple and straightforward that I cannot understand why this isn't how photons are pictured in every college and university textbook in the world.    

On the other hand, the idea also poses a lot of questions about what a field is made of.  The fields do not consume energy from the nucleus, so the photon can travel across the universe without any energy loss.

And how does this model work when discussing polarization and refraction?  I suspect it will work very well and totally demolish a lot of mathematical models, but I need to figure out all the details - or get my subconscious to do it for me.   

Comments for Sunday, February 17, 2019, thru Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019:

February 20, 2019 - This afternoon, while driving around doing chores, I finished listening to CD #4 of the 4 CD audio book set for "The Order of Time" by Carlo Rovelli.

The Order of Time
While it was generally worthwhile, I cannot wholeheartedly recommend the book.  Too much of it is philosophy instead of science.  But Rovelli does make some good scientific points.  For example, he says this on page 43:
For millennia before clocks, our only regular way of measuring time had been the alternation of day and night. The rhythm of day followed by night also regulates the lives of plants and animals. Diurnal rhythms are ubiquitous in the natural world. They are essential to life, and it seems to me probable that they played a key role in the very origin of life on Earth, since an oscillation is required to set a mechanism in motion. Living organisms are full of clocks of various kinds—molecular, neuronal, chemical, hormonal—each of them more or less in tune with the others. There are chemical mechanisms that keep to a twenty-four-hour rhythm even in the biochemistry of single cells.
Later on the same page, Rovelli says,  
Aristotle is the first we are aware of to have asked himself the question “What is time?,” and he came to the following conclusion: time is the measurement of change. Things change continually. We call “time” the measurement, the counting of this change.
So if nothing changes, if nothing moves, does time therefore cease to pass?

Aristotle believed that it did. If nothing changes, time does not pass — because time is our way of situating ourselves in relation to the changing of things: the placing of ourselves in relation to the counting of days. Time is the measure of change: if nothing changes, there is no time.
I agree with that, although I wouldn't phrase things that way.  Its a philosophical view, not a scientific view where (in my view) time is simply particle spin.  Change and other effects of particle spin are measurements of time, not time itself.

Quantum Mechanics, of course, looks at time differently.  It quantizes time.  It requires that time consist of multiples of a specific unit ("quanta").  On page 54, Rovelli writes this about how time is viewed in Quantum Mechanics:
The time measured by a clock is “quantified,” that is to say, it acquires only certain values and not others. It is as if time were granular rather than continuous.
The “quantization” of time implies that almost all values of time t do not exist. If we could measure the duration of an interval with the most precise clock imaginable, we should find that the time measured takes only certain discrete, special values. It is not possible to think of duration as continuous. We must think of it as discontinuous: not as something that flows uniformly but as something that in a certain sense jumps, kangaroo-like, from one value to another.

In other words, a minimum interval of time exists. Below this, the notion of time does not exist—even in its most basic meaning.
It's difficult for me to make any sense of that, and Rovelli doesn't try to.  He just describes it as another way for a philosopher to view time.

The books provides a lot to think about, particularly about how entropy relates to time, but the net result of spending 4 hours and 23 minutes listening to the book while two weeks went by is more akin to confusion than enlightenment.

February 18, 2019
- I my February 16 comment I mentioned that I had accessed some podcasts for the first time.  It was the first time I found podcasts that didn't require joining something and paying a fee.  The podcasts were on a web site titled Geek's Guide to the Galaxy, and there are currently 348 podcasts available.

I began by listening to episode #348 in which the host of the show, David Barr Kirtley, interviews astrophysicist and science fiction writer Gregory Benford.  While the whole interview was enjoyable and worthwhile, I
found something very interesting near the end, at about the 1 hour, 2 minutes and 40 seconds mark.  At that point Benford says,
I'm always trying to use my unconscious as much as possible in order to avoid extra labor. I think one of the great [mumble] about people is whether they've learned to use their unconscious to solve problems.  I use it every day.

I review all the things I'm working on just before I go to sleep, and when I wake up in the morning I do not open my eyes, I lie there and recall what I was working on.  And about one time in three there is an idea there - for free - and it almost always works!  And it's been produced by your unconscious, which has still been working while you were asleep.
That's exactly what I do!  I've mentioned it in comments I've written here many times.  Recently, I've been thinking about photons just before going to sleep, hoping that my unconscious mind will figure out something while I'm asleep.  I think it needs more information.  So, I'm going to have to do more research.

In the Interview, Benford also mentions discussing the unconscious mind with another scientist, and together they wondered:  

We evolved with an unconscious.  Why?  Why did we evolve with an unconscious mind?
They had no answer to that.  Maybe they need to think about it just before going to sleep.  Or maybe I do.

After finishing Episode #348, I started on Episode #347.  In it,
David Barr Kirtley interviews three different science fiction writers about a science fiction anthology TV series titled "Dimension 404."  The series is on Hulu, and I'm not a subscriber, so I've never seen it.  I don't even know how to access Hulu.

But, very little of the show was about "Dimension 404."  Mostly it was about other things.  They talked past TV anthology series such as "The Twilight Zone," "The Outer Limits," "One Step Beyond" and "Amazing Stories."  And there is also a series titled "Black Mirror" on Netflix, which I've also never seen.  They also talked about a book called "The Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos," which I had never heard of before.

I was probably ten minutes into the show when I had to grab a pen and a piece of paper so I could start making notes.  I didn't know Jeff Bezos had a company called "Blue Origin" which is involved with space exploration.  I may have read about it or heard about it before, but it never registered the way it did while I was listening to that podcast.  

I listened to all or parts of about 6 other episodes, working backward through the list, and while they weren't all as interesting as the first two I'd heard, they sometimes caused me to grab that paper and pen again to make notes.  In one episode they mentioned other podcasts, such as Hardcore History, and shows by Joe Rogan.  I downloaded samples of those to check out.  I think I've just sampled a tiny tiny fraction of all the podcasts that are available.  Just prowling around this morning, I found that Science magazine has a web site of podcasts.  I downloaded a couple samples to check out when I find the time.  Meanwhile, someone sent me a link to a talk by an American doctor who was asked to fly to India in 1989 to treat Mother Teresa, who appeared to be dying.  I could only listen to it on my computer, but I'd like to save it as an MP3 file.  It's fascinating and funny, while at the same time being very serious and bizarre.

It appears that I'm going to be listening to a lot of podcasts in the future.  I might even start taking my MP3 player with me again when I go to the gym.

February 17, 2019
- Sometimes when I'm researching how photons and light waves work, I just feel like just giving up.
  Things make no sense.

Last week I researched the size of various atoms.  The books and articles and web sites all seem to generally agree on these sizes for various atoms:
Barium (Ba) has a radius of 0.253 nanometers (253 picometers)
Strontium (Sr) has a radius of 0.215 nanometers (215 picometers)

Calcium (Ca) has a radius of 0.197 nanometers (197 picometers)
Sodium (Na) has a radius of 0.190 nanometers (190 picometers)
Lithium (Li) has a radius of 0.167 nanometers (167 picometers)
Silver (Ag) has a radius of 0.165 nanometers (165 picometers)
Copper (Cu) has a radius of 0.145 nanometers (145 picometers)
And they also seem to generally agree that wavelengths have these sizes:

table of color wavelengths
And they all seem to agree that light is created this way:

How light is created

So, a photon hits an atom and is absorbed, which causes the outermost electron in the atom to jump to a higher, unstable energy level. The electron then falls back to its original energy level and the atom releases the extra energy in the form of a new light photon.  According to an on-line source:

During the fall from high energy to normal energy, the electron emits a photon -- a packet of energy -- with very specific characteristics. The photon has a frequency, or color, that exactly matches the distance the electron falls.

You can see this phenomenon quite clearly in gas-discharge lamps. Fluorescent lamps, neon signs and sodium-vapor lamps are common examples of this kind of electric lighting, which passes an electric current through a gas to make the gas emit light. The colors of gas-discharge lamps vary widely depending on the identity of the gas and the construction of the lamp.
A frequency that matches a distance?  What does that mean?
You can also cause light to be emitted by applying heat to an atom.  Heat will cause the electron to jump to a higher level and then back down again to emit a photon.  The type of atom being heated will determine the color of the light that is emitted.  According to an on-line source,

Sodium Na produces yellow color,
Copper Cu gives blue.
Barium Ba emits green and
Strontium salts and lithium salts produce:
Lithium carbonate, Li2CO3 emits red
Strontium carbonate, SrCO3 emits bright red.
Okay, so a sodium atom that is 0.38 nanometers in diameter will emit a yellow light wave that has a length of 580 nanometers - or a photon that is 290 nanometers in diameter.  And if that wave or photon hits a silver atom that has a diameter of 0.33 nm, it will be fully absorbed, and the silver atom will then emit a totally new 290 nm photon or new wave that is 580 nanometers long.

How does an atom that is 0.33 nanometers in diameter absorb a light photon that is 879 times larger than the atom?   Or how does an atom absorb a wave that is 1,758 times the size of the atom? 

Someone on asked the question "How big is a photon?" and the general consensus seems to be that there is no answer to that question.  The answer that received twice as many "up votes" than everyone else put together was from a
Professor Emeritus in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at the University of British Columbia who wrote:

I’m pretty sure there is no possible answer to that question. A photon is a wave — usually a wave packet, which limits and fuzzily defines its net “length”, but it can occupy any number of different volumes and still be the same quantum.

What is the size or volume of a shout?

How can such a basic question have no possible answer?  Is it because no one is looking for an answer?  Because no one cares?

While trying to find an answer (because I care) I found a link to a book that says this on pages 21 and 22:
Physicists had known for nearly three decades that something was wrong, that a change was desperately needed to understand what was happening in the world of the very small—the world of atoms. But they were working blind. Atoms are simply too small to see through any normal microscope, no matter the magnification. The wavelength of visible light is thousands of times larger than the size of an individual atom.
That's exactly what I just wrote.  Going back to the start of the book, I found this on pages 5 and 6:
Despite the fact that every physicist agrees that quantum physics works, a bitter debate has raged over its meaning for the past ninety years, since the theory was first developed. And one position in that debate—held by the majority of physicists and purportedly by Bohr—has continually denied the very terms of the debate itself. These physicists claim that it is somehow inappropriate or unscientific to ask what is going on in the quantum realm, despite the phenomenal success of the theory. To them, the theory needs no interpretation, because the things that the theory describes aren’t truly real. Indeed, the strangeness of quantum phenomena has led some prominent physicists to state flatly that there is no alternative, that quantum physics proves that small objects simply do not exist in the same objectively real way as the objects in our everyday lives do. Therefore, they claim, it is impossible to talk about reality in quantum physics. There is not, nor could there be, any story of the world that goes along with the theory.
The book (published in 2018) is "What Is Real?: The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Physics" by Adam Becker.  The book goes on to say,
The popularity of this attitude to quantum physics is surprising. Physics is about the world around us. It aims to understand the fundamental constituents of the universe and how they behave. Many physicists are driven to enter the field out of a desire to understand the most basic properties of nature, to see how the puzzle fits together. Yet, when it comes to quantum physics, the majority of physicists are perfectly willing to abandon this quest and instead merely “shut up and calculate,” in the words of physicist David Mermin. 
This is an astonishing state of affairs, and hardly anyone outside of physics knows about it. But why should anyone else care? After all, quantum physics certainly works. For that matter, why should physicists care? Their mathematics makes accurate predictions; isn’t that enough? 
No, it is not enough.  I could quote endlessly from the book, even though I've only read the first 22 pages so far.  The point seems to be that Quantum Mechanics is not about the real world, it is about calculating probabilities.  And the book doesn't seem to provide any answers, it seems to just describe the reason no one is even looking for answers: Physicists are fully satisfied with calculating probabilities.  As long as they can calculate probabilities and get good results, no one cares what is actually going on at the atomic level.

When looking at the book on Amazon's web site, they displayed another book published in June of 2018 that looks interesting and similar: "Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray Hardcover" by Sabine Hossenfelder.  I mentioned that book in my June 2, 2018 comment, when it first came out. 

And that book led me to another book published in 2018: "Beyond Weird: Why Everything You Thought You Knew about Quantum Physics Is Different" by Philip Ball.  It has this famous Richard Feynman quote on page 6:
“I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
And then it goes on to explain what Prof. Feynman meant:
In case we didn’t get the point, Feynman drove it home in his artful Everyman style. ‘I was born not understanding quantum mechanics,’ he exclaimed merrily, ‘[and] I still don’t understand quantum mechanics!’ Here was the man who had just been anointed one of the foremost experts on the topic, declaring his ignorance of it.
The book goes on to say,
Feynman’s much-quoted words help to seal the reputation of quantum mechanics as one of the most obscure and difficult subjects in all of science. Quantum mechanics has become symbolic of ‘impenetrable science’, in the same way that the name of Albert Einstein (who played a key role in its inception) acts as shorthand for scientific genius.

Feynman clearly didn’t mean that he couldn’t do quantum theory. He meant that this was all he could do. He could work through the math just fine – he invented some of it, after all. That wasn’t the problem. Sure, there’s no point in pretending that the math is easy, and if you never got on with numbers then a career in quantum mechanics isn’t for you. But neither, in that case, would be a career in fluid mechanics, population dynamics, or economics, which are equally inscrutable to the numerically challenged.

No, the equations aren’t why quantum mechanics is perceived to be so hard. It’s the ideas. We just can’t get our heads around them. Neither could Richard Feynman. His failure, Feynman admitted, was to understand what the math was saying. It provided numbers: predictions of quantities that could be tested against experiments, and which invariably survived those tests. But Feynman couldn’t figure out what these numbers and equations were really about: what they said about the ‘real world’.
The existence of these three books, all published in 2018, tells me that others are bothered by the problem.  And they aren't afraid of writing about it.  So, I'm not alone.  But it sometimes seems like I'm the only one who is trying to make sense of it all.  They write about the problem, not about attempts to solve the problem.

No one is saying that it is impossible for an atom to absorb and emit a photon that is a thousand times larger than the atom.  It is just not something that happens in the visible universe.  Or does it?

snake can surprise  

Comments for Sunday, February 10, 2019, thru Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019:

February 16, 2019 - At 9:23 p.m. last night, I finished listening to the audio book version of "Time for the Stars" by Robert A. Heinlein.  It's generally considered to be a "juvenile science-fiction novel," which means it was written for teenagers.  The central character is a teenager. 

Time for the Stars

I decided to listen to it because, as Wikipedia says, "The basic plot line is derived from a 1911 thought experiment in special relativity, commonly called the twin paradox, proposed by French physicist Paul Langevin."  It also seemed to have some interesting similarities to "Variable Star," which I enjoyed very much and which was supposedly co-authored by Heinlein. 

The plot involves a pair of identical twins who are telepathic in that they can communicate with each other telepathically.  And, just as in "Variable Star," such telepathic communications are instantaneous and are not limited by the speed of light.  Thus, when one twin boards a space ship headed to explore planets around nearby stars, he and his brother can communicate instantly, even when they are trillions of miles apart.  They and a dozen other twins with the same abilities are used for communications as part of 14 different exploration missions to seek planets that can be colonized.  

While the traveling twin (who narrates the story) explores other planets, the Earthbound twin ages at a much faster rate, aging 60 years while his brother ages 1 or 2 years.  There are problems with other planets, including diseases and vicious creatures, but the most interesting part is the same as happened in "Variable Star": while the traveling twin doesn't age as fast as his Earthbound brother, science advances much faster on Earth than it does on the spaceship.  In 70 years on Earth, they develop spaceships that can travel faster than light, and soon the new spaceships catch up with the original ship, and the original ship and the traveling twin are sent back home.  It's a home where nearly everything has changed.  It's like someone from the 1800s returning to the world of 2019.  Their space ship is now a museum piece.  That's an angle I had never though about or seen written about before.

It was an enjoyable book.  Interestingly, this morning when I checked the news, I saw a link to an on-line Wired Magazine article titled, "Sci-Fi Author Robert Heinlein was basically MacGiver."  The article begins with this:

Robert Heinlein is the legendary author of such classic works as Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Stranger in a Strange Land. His books have influenced generations of artists and scientists, including physicist and science fiction writer Gregory Benford.

“He was one of the people who propelled me forward to go into the sciences,” Benford says in Episode 348 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Because his depiction of the prospect of the future of science, engineering—everything—was so enticing. He was my favorite science fiction writer.”

Out of curiosity, I clicked on the second link and found a whole bunch of potentially interesting podcasts on the Geek's Guide to the Galaxy.  I downloaded the last half dozen into my MP3 player.  I don't know how, but I'm going to try to find the time to listen to at least some of them.  Believe it or not, they are the first podcasts I've ever downloaded.  I never found free podcasts before.  Other podcasts always involved subscribing to something and paying a fee.  And these podcasts appear more interesting than any others I've seen.  Time will tell.  (The first three minutes of Episode 348 is a commercial for some video game.)

February 14, 2019 - Groan.  I spent much of this morning trying to find some college text book I can quote as saying that light gets absorbed and re-emitted from atom to atom as it makes its way through glass (or water) as described in the first on-line source I used in yesterday's comment.  That web site ( was created by a high-school physics teacher.  The first two college text books I found do not seem to even address the issue.  Mostly they are just about the mathematics.

However, one of the books mentioned something I hadn't thought about before.  It described how binoculars produce upright images.  With ordinary telescopes (like the first one created by Galileo) the image is you see is magnified but upside down. 

telescope principles

In order to view the target object right-side up, you have to add another lens or a set of prisms.  Binoculars use two prisms for each eye to flip the image upright.

binoculars using prisms 

Note what this says about prisms.  Light hitting the surface of a prism at a 90 degree angle passes into the prism unaltered.  There is no separation of different wavelengths (or photon sizes).  100% of the light then reflects off the inside of the prism that is angled at 45 degrees.  That surface has no mirror coating.  Light simply reflects off of a flat surface when that surface is angled at 45 degrees.  The light then exits the first prism at a 90 degree angle to the surface and enters a second prism at a 90 degree angle.  That second prism then reflects the image again and sends it to the eyepiece lenses.

Even though there are four prisms inside the binoculars, none of the prisms separates light by wavelength, and they all reflect light nearly perfectly without being silver coated.

When you take another look at how a prism is generally explained to work:

prism separating light    

you see that the light is always made to hit surfaces at angles other than 90 degrees and 45 degrees.

The problem I now have is to understand (and explain) how a photon hitting a glass surface at a 90 degree angle does not disperse or refract (except for maybe about 4%), how a photon hitting a glass surface at a 45 degree angle reflects perfectly as if the surface was a mirror, how photons hitting a glass surface at less or greater than a 45 degree angle will be refracted at different angles depending upon the size of the photon.

Clearly, a 45 degree angle has great significance in understanding light.  (I think I read somewhere that it is actually 43 point something to 46 point something).  It is also the angle used when explaining polarization: 

polarizing light and 45 degree angles
Half the light from the source in the above diagram will pass through the horizontal filter, half of that light will pass through the 45 degree angle filter, and half of that light will pass through the vertical 90 degree angle filter.  So, 12.5 percent of the original light reaches the meter.  However, if the 45 degree angle filter is removed, half the light from the source will pass through horizontal filter just as before, but NONE of that light will pass through the vertical 90 degree angle filter.  NONE will reach the meter.

Books explain how things work by using waves and mathematics, but how does that all work using photons and logic?  That is what I have to figure out and understand.   

February 13, 2019
- I spent all day yesterday working on a scientific paper about "Visualizing Photons," and I thought I was making excellent progress.  Then, this morning, it was time for me to check on the actual sizes of things.  Specifically, I wondered about the size of a photon of red color and the size of silicon oxide molecules in a prism (or in a glass window pane). 
I knew that an atom consists mostly of empty space, and I was trying to visualize a photon passing through the empty spaces within a cluster of atoms. 

On a web page HERE I found this drawing of a silicon dioxide molecule:

silicon dioxide molecule

Hmm.  So there is about a quarter of a nanometer (nm) between any two oxygen atoms in the molecule and much less space than that between the silicon atom and each of the four oxygen atoms.

And what is the size of a red color photon?  Here's a table of wavelengths:

table of color wavelengths

Uh oh.   The wavelength of red light is about 3,000 times the distance between atoms in a silicon dioxide molecule. And if my view of photons is correct, that means that a photon is about 1,000 times larger than a silicon dioxide molecule! 

So much for the idea of photons traveling through the empty spaces inside atoms.

And that means that when a photon of red light touches the surface of a prism or glass window, fitting it between atoms would be like trying to fit a beach ball through a keyhole.

Yet, somehow light does go through glass.  How?  I did a Google search for "how does light pass through glass" and found a web site HERE which says, 
The mechanism by which a light wave is transported through a medium occurs in a manner that is similar to the way that any other wave is transported - by particle-to-particle interaction.    
Huh?  The article goes on to explain, but in terms too long to quote.  Basically, it says that light travels through glass the same way electricity travels through a wire.  The energy gets transmitted from atom to atom, each atom first absorbing the energy and then re-emitting it as a new photon to the next atom in line.

And, if it does that with glass, it must also do it with air.  So, a photon emitted from an atom in a tree across the street gets passed from atom to atom about a kazillion times to reach my eye.  And even when there is a window in the way, it still travels straight as an arrow.

That brought my thinking to a halt.  How can something that is 3,000 times larger than an atom get passed from atom to atom in a straight line?  I couldn't make any sense of it.

So, I researched further.

The next source I found was on, where someone asked, "If light is made of particles, how does it pass through glass?"  There were dozens of answers, and I started going through them.

A response from June 2017 says that light passes through glass like sound passes through air.  Atoms push against atoms in a wavelike manner.  Bullshit!  That would mean that light cannot travel in a vacuum.

The next response says,
Particles can pass though objects. For example, right now there are 100 billion solar neutrinos per second passing through every square centimeter of your body. The neutrinos are particles that only have VERY weak interactions with the matter that our bodies are made of so almost all of them pass through without interacting. So, in general, there is no problem with particles passing through matter if they do not interact with the matter - there is lots of space between the nuclei of atoms.
That somewhat matches my original thinking.  It ignores the differences in size.  A neutrino is about as small a particle as there is, so it CAN pass through atoms.  But that doesn't mean that a light photon can.
Another response is very long and complex and doesn't really supply an answer, but it does say this:

The separation between atoms in glass is measured in picometers. The wavelength of visible light is measured in nanometers. That should tell you something. Yep. The wavelength of that passing electric field disturbance covers hundreds if not thousands of atoms. Think about that when you start to talk about “interactions”.
Okay, so I'm not the only person in the world to have noticed the difference in the size of a photon versus a molecule of glass.

Another response says basically the same thing as was stated in the first web site I checked, just worded differently:
When light falls on glass, the photons are absorbed by the electrons of the atoms on the surface of glass. But then then almost immediately these electrons transmit this photon by giving out the same energy it had previously absorbed and returns to the ground state.

With a series of these absorption-transmission steps, the light photons exit on the other side of the glass. 
Someone who claims to have been head of DARPA at one time responded with this:

Light (photons) actually pass through a-lot of things. Air for instance. In fact there is one and only one thing in the entire universe that can stop a light wave or particle. Without this one thing a photon will fly off to the edge of the universe and/or a black hole, whichever happens first. You are bathed daily in ancient photons born at the universe’s creation.

Intrigued? Ready? The only thing “powerful” enough to stop [absorb] a light beam is a charged particle. In everyday practical terms this will be an electron. Further not every electron will do, the electron needs to be “special” in that it is in a special state that allows it to effect the photon. Specifically: the photon’s energy [i.e. the light’s color] must be within the range of energy that the electron is allowed to absorb. This range is governed by the wacky laws of quantum theory.

There are dozens of responses to the question, so I could go on and on, but the response above seems to be the best answer.  Light photons are not stopped by the glass because the glass contains no electrons that have the right amount of energy to affect red color photons.  That means the light passes through and around the glass atoms and molecules as if the glass wasn't there - EXCEPT for the fact that the glass is more dense than air or a vacuum, which causes the photon to travel slower as it goes through the glass, speeding up again when it enters the air on the other side, and perhaps speeding up even more when it passes out of the air and into the vacuum of space.  As long as there isn't a tree in the way, or a bird, or some other object containing atoms and electrons of the right size, there is nothing to stop the photon.

Live and learn.  That wasn't how I pictured things before, but it is now.

And I've also seen that there are many different theories out there about something that is so fundamental that it is difficult to believe that there can be any disagreement.  It appears many physics teachers aren't teaching physics, they are teaching their own mistaken beliefs about physics.    

February 11, 2019
- At about 7 p.m. last night, I finished listening to the audio book version of the science-fiction novel "Into The Storm" by Taylor Anderson.

Into The Storm (Destroyermen #1)

The book is 400 pages long in hardcover, and as an audio book it consists of 20 MP3 files with a total listening time of 16 hours and 13 minutes.  I didn't really expect to finish it.  But I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I found it on Friday when I wondered if my local library had any science fiction novels in audio book form that might be as enjoyable as "Variable Star" was for me.  I found that my library has 712 science fiction books in audio book format, and 293 of those were available for immediate downloading.  Browsing through them, I found many "Star Wars" adventures and many other books that were part of a series.  I wasn't looking for any series books, but one series caught my eye.  The series was titled "Destroyermen," and the first book in the series was "Into The Storm," which was available.  

"Into the Storm" is about an old World War I destroyer, the USS Walker, that is fighting in World War II when it is chased out of the Philippines by the Japanese and down into the area of Indonesia and Bali and into the Battle of the Java Sea in March of 1942.  That was a period of history of great interest to me at one time.  The story becomes science fiction when the Walker and another old "four- stacker" destroyer, the USS Mahan, are chased by a Japanese ship into a strange tropical storm.  When they escape from the storm they are in the same area in the same year but in an alternate timeline.  They are on Earth in 1942, but it is an Earth which was never hit by the comet or asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.  So, humans never developed.  Instead, other species formed.  And they evolved and developed.

The Japanese ship sinks, and the Walker is separated from the Mahan when they find themselves in the middle of a different war.  It's a war between peaceful furry beings that evidently developed from Meercats and rampaging feathered or scaly creatures that developed from raptors.  What's most interesting, though, is that neither species has yet developed gun powder or steam power, much less radio or electric lights.  They still fight with spears and crossbows and wooden ships, technology that they evidently learned from humans on other ships that crossed over into their timeline centuries ago.  Plus, the Walker is nearly out of fuel in a world which has no oil refineries. And, there are only four human women in this world, four nurses who were evacuated from the Philippines, two on the Walker and two on the missing Mahan.  So, you can see how thirteen books have been written in the series.  There are plenty of problems to overcome.

I really enjoyed "Into the Storm," but I have absolutely no interest in reading any other books in the series. 

Right now, all I can think about is refraction.  How does refraction work if light consists of photons and there are no rays or waves to bend?

February 10, 2019
- It's another one of those Sunday mornings when I have absolutely nothing prepared for my Sunday comment.  So, I'm writing this comment from scratch.

I don't know if I'm making progress on my paper about photons or not.  I'm not getting anything written, but I keep thinking about it.  Last week I thought about prisms and how they separate light into its different component colors.


Here's how one web site describes what a prism does:
White light is composed of all the visible colors in the electromagnetic spectrum, a fact that can be easily proven through the use of a prism. As light passes through a prism, it is bent, or refracted, by the angles and plane faces of the prism and each wavelength of light is refracted by a slightly different amount. Violet has the highest frequency and is refracted the most. Red has the lowest frequency and is refracted the least. Because each color is refracted differently, each bends at a different angle, resulting in a fanning out and separation of white light into the colors of the spectrum.
Okay, but light consists of photons, not waves, so there is no "wavelength" and light cannot be separated by wavelength.  What you have instead is size.  A prism separates light photons by size.  Violet has the smallest size photon and is refracted the most.  Red has the largest photon size and is refracted the least.

That poses a question that neither theory answers: Why?  Why is the higher frequency or smallest photon affected the most?  I haven't been able to find any solid answer to that question.  Mostly the sources just say that is the way refraction works.

When light traveling through air hits the surface of the prism it enters a different and thicker medium in which light travels at a slower speed.  All the waves and/or photons slow down.  I have no problem with that.

If the light hits the surface of the prism at a right angle, everything still slows down, but the light is not refracted.  All the photons and waves are still mixed up.  In order to separate different waves or different photon sizes, the light has to hit the surface at an angle.  I have no problem with that, either.  

What I have a problems with is this:

When light hits the surface of a prism at an angle, the smaller photons (the waves with the shortest wavelength) are supposedly slowed down more than larger photons and longer wavelengths.  Here's how one typical source describes the phenomenon:
The explanation for the colours separating out is that the light is made of waves. Red light has a longer wavelength than violet light. The refractive index for red light in glass is slightly different than for violet light. Violet light slows down even more than red light, so it is refracted at a slightly greater angle.
And here's what another source says,
The amount of refraction increases as the wavelength of light decreases. Shorter wavelengths of light (violet and blue) are slowed more and consequently experience more bending than do the longer wavelengths (orange and red).
I cannot make any sense of that.  If violet light slows down more than red light, then the different colors of light are traveling at different speeds.  The "speed of light" then means nothing, since every color travels at a different speed.

Things make sense to me if you view light as a photon and say that smaller photons are deflected at a sharper angle than larger photons.  Why are small photons deflected at a sharper angle?  It must be because smaller photons are more affected by the electromagnetic fields of the molecules and atoms that constitute the outer surface of the prism.

I think I need to create an illustration to show what I mean by that.  The illustration would show how the atoms in the prism have electromagnetic fields that are very shallow.  As a result, they can can easily grab entire small photons and deflect them at sharper angles, while larger photons are less affected because most of the photon passes outside of the pull of the atomic fields of the prism. 
Hmm.  I'll have to work on that idea.  It might be what I have been looking for.  One problem will be to properly show the relative sizes of the different photons and the atoms.  Another problem will be to use the right terminology.  I want to have people read and understand the paper without getting upset because I used a wrong word here or there.

Still another problem will be to get my daily routines back on track.  On Friday I downloaded the audio book version of an interesting science fiction novel.  It's 16 hours and 13 minutes long.  I've been listening to it on my MP3 player for about 5 hours a day.  I'm going to try to finish it today.  That won't give me time to do much of anything else.

Comments for Sunday, February 3, 2019, thru Saturday, February 9, 2019:

February 7, 2019 - While I keep thinking about the scientific paper I'm trying to write on the topic of "What is a Photon?," this morning I just had to sit down and spend a couple hours finishing a book I've been reading on my Kindle.  The book is "The Shadow President: The Truth about Mike Pence," by Michael D'Antonio and Peter Eisner. 

The Shadow President

I didn't want to finish it because I was enjoying reading it, I wanted to finish it so I could start reading something else.  The book was well-written, so it wasn't difficult to get through (I've got 33 pages of notes), but it gets very tedious just reading more and more sickening things about someone you totally detest.  Reading about Donald Trump is more enjoyable, because Trump's screwball actions can be stupid and hilarious, but Pence is just plain creepy and scary.

The first chapter in the book is titled "Sycophant," and the whole book shows Mike Pence to be an ass-kisser who agrees with Trump on almost everything, even though Trump's personal actions constantly go against Pence's religious beliefs and morals.  Pence gets what he wants by boot licking.  Here's a passage from the first chapter:
Throughout his first year at Trump’s side, Pence would be a constant, attentive presence who generally spoke only when the president requested it. For weeks at a time, he seemed to have just one major public assignment: admiring Donald Trump. He performed this duty consistently despite the fact that the bellicose and chaotic Trump—he of the infamous “grab ’em by the pussy” videotape—was so personally objectionable that Pence had considered trying to replace him at the top of the ticket as the 2016 election neared. 3 (A Pence aide denied that he had considered doing that.)
And here's another about comments Pence made during the first Cabinet meeting after Trump's election:
Pence offered about three minutes of impromptu praise in which The Washington Post discovered one expression of gratitude or admiration every twelve seconds. Among them were: “I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.” “You’ve restored American credibility on the world stage.” “You’ve unleashed American energy.” “You’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records.” When Pence concluded his praise, President Trump offered up a verbal pat on the head, saying, “Thank you, Mike. That’s very nice. I appreciate that.” Pence replied, “Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.” 5 The vice president’s cringeworthy display, broadcast live on television, prompted an avalanche of mockery. The nonpolitical website used Pence’s remarks in a tweet to illustrate the definition of the word sycophant.
Pence evidently justifies his sycophant actions by believing they will eventually get him into the Presidency, which he believes was ordained by God.  Here's another quote from early in the book:
James Carville and Paul Begala once observed that “you never stand so tall as when you stoop to kiss an ass.” If that’s the case, then Mike Pence is a giant among men. 6 Lewis’s analysis overlooked a significant signal in the final phrase—“and God bless you”—offered by the vice president when he spoke at the cabinet meeting. Easy to regard as a kind of rhetorical tic, like the “God bless America” that presidents tack on to the end of formal addresses, Pence’s call to the deity reminded conservative Christians that their champion was alert to his duty. In fact, as one of Pence’s closest aides would explain, the vice president actually believed he could bring Trump to Jesus and, like Jesus, he was willing to do whatever was necessary to help save Trump’s soul.
Pence is also someone who is willing to sacrifice people for money and political goals.  He was governor of Indiana before becoming Vice-President, and in that role he had a long list of occasions where he chose monetary goals over people, even leaving an innocent man rot in prison for 3 years because pardoning him might cost Indiana some money if the guy sued for wrongful imprisonment.  (Pence's successor pardoned the man.)  Plus he allowed corporations to pollute water sources, endangering people, because the polluters were big donors to his campaigns. 

Pence also justifies all sorts of wrongful acts because he feels his religious beliefs justify them.  Another quote:
In this way, faith became a substitute for facts and permitted believers to assert their superiority even as they proclaimed their humility. In the same way that President Trump insisted his genes made him better than others, this type of Christian assumed extra insights on an ontological basis: faith, rather than might, makes right. Such a belief permitted the faithful to claim humility in the shadow of God’s grace while also feeling just a little (or a lot) superior to others.    
I could go on and on, but it's just as tedious to write about Pence as it is to read about him.  Trump may be incompetent, but Pence is just plain evil.  That is part of what I meant in the poster I created a few weeks ago:
                    about impeaching Donald Trump.

February 5, 2019
- As I write this comment, I still have 10 minutes left on CD #8 of the 8-CD audio book set I burned for "Storm in a Teacup: The Physics of Everyday Life" by Helen Czerski.  I'm listening to it in my car, so I'll finish it this afternoon when I'm driving either to or back from the gym. (Added note: I finished it on my way home.)

Storm in a Teacup

It's a thoroughly enjoyable book, and I may listen to it again sometime.  I particularly enjoyed the narration by Chloe Massey, who speaks with a cute and charming British accent.  I truly enjoy listening to her talk.  I could do it all day without really hearing to a word she says.  "Storm in a Teacup" is pronounced "Stawm in a Teacop."  When she asks, "Isn't it?" she asks "Isn't eh?"  But it all loses something when viewed in print.  You have to listen to it.

The book has lots of interesting things in it, like the fact that an electromagnet is used to hold down the toast tray in a pop-up toaster.  I would have it assumed it was some kind of lever.  But an electromagnet is more reliable.  You can test it by trying to push down the lever on the side of the toaster when the toaster is not plugged it.  The lever won't stay down.  I recall doing that and wondering about it when I was a kid.  The author also discusses at length how water gets from the roots of a tall tree to the leaves on the topmost branches, and I found it very interesting, but I don't remember enough of it to explain it.  Part of the problem is that, unlike most non-fiction books, this one tends to be told like a story, which means the story gets interrupted when I turn off the ignition in my car.  While that might be annoying for another book, for this one it just means I want to listen to this book again sometime.

I don't even mind that the word "photon" is used only twice in the book.  Both times in the same paragraph at the top of page 236, a paragraph which also says that light consists of waves and rays:
The light rays hitting our retina may have travelled from the Moon or from our fingers, but they have the same effect. A single photon is absorbed by a single opsin molecule, twisting the molecule around to start a chain of dominoes that sends an electronic signal into our control systems. As our thirsty body walks into the kitchen, photons that have bounced off a sink, a tap and a kettle stream into our eyes, and our brain processes that information in the blink of an eye to tell us what to pick up first. If it’s slightly dark in the kitchen, we turn on a lightbulb, releasing a fountain of light waves. They radiate outwards, and as soon as their journey starts they’re being modified by the world, reflected, refracted and absorbed until perhaps our eyes pick up what’s left.
Note that the author talks about rays and waves (or "wehves") when talking about how light is transmitted ("the wehve model"), but she talks about photons when talking about how light interacts with molecules and solid objects (the photon model).  Plus, I suppose people just aren't accustomed to someone saying, "we turn on a lightbulb, releasing a fountain of photons."  But that is what happens.  And the reason I am writing this comment about finishing a book before I actually finish it is because I want to get to work on a paper about photons.  That's easier to do if I know I won't have to stop working on it to write this comment later today.

February 4, 2019
- I've probably seen a dozen detective shows where the detective is looking around in some house or some other location and someone asks him what he is looking for.  And the detective responds, "I don't know, but I'll recognize it when I find it."  That happened to me yesterday.

I was reading and studying an article titled "Evolution of the modern photon" when I came across this passage near the bottom of the first page:
Bohr rejected the existence of quanta for many years. In 1923, he had referred to the "insuperable difficulties" of the lightquantum hypothesis in accounting for interference phenomena and asserted that "the picture ... which lies at the foundation of the hypothesis of lightquanta ... excludes, in principle, the possibility of a rational definition of the conception of a frequency which plays a principal part in this theory."11
Ah!  Of course!  Bohr rejected the idea of photons because photons are generally incompatible with the idea of a frequency.  Only waves have a frequency:

light wave frequency  
With waves, if you know how many waves pass a given point in one second, you can compute the wave length.  And vice versa, if you know the wave length, you can compute the frequency at which waves will pass a given point.

With photons, frequency has no meaning, since photons are emitted randomly and thus arrive randomly.  And wave length is not really the length of a wave, since there are no waves.

The article then goes on to say that Bohr co-wrote a paper in which he attempted to dispose of the idea of photons (light quanta) by developing a mathematical theory where photons were only statistical flukes.  But that didn't work.
The theory was eventually refuted on experimental grounds, and, in 1927, Bohr final­ly accepted the photon at the price of espousing complementarity13 and, thus, enshrining the wave-particle duality of light as a permanent feature of the Copenhagen interpretation, a denouement that has been described as "a case in which competing views, found unresolvable, were simply combined-perhaps a singular event in the development of science"14 and one that it must be said has caused dissension ever since (see, e.g., Park 15).
So, "wave-particle duality" is simply a case of "competing views," with Bohr believing in mathematics, and others believing in the results of experiments.

Today the whole science of spectroscopy is based upon wavelengths and frequencies.  And the Doppler shift of light is viewed as a change in wavelength. A whole new scientific language would have to be developed to discuss the properties of light if light consists of photons, i.e., specific quantities of energy which have nothing to do with waves or anything wavelike.    

I tried to find the references the quotes use, but the only one that provides interesting details is "(see, e.g., Park 15)"  at the end of the second quote.  That reference provides this information:
Maxwell’s theory explains certain experiments well, but the same is true of the photon concept. Do we then have to conclude that light is both a wave and a particle? That would be too bad, since it would not make any sense. But think for a minute: What is a physical experiment and what does it actually tell us? We prepare a piece of apparatus, we turn it on, something happens, a measurement is made. The experiment tells us what happened, and a good theory tells what will happen before any one does the experiment. The crucial point is this: An experiment or a theory tells what happens, not what is.

Experiments in the old days usually involved things one could touch and see, and it is from experience of touching and seeing that we get our firm ideas of what is; therefore, if one deduced what was from what happened, things rarely went wrong. You can see light but you cannot see a light wave; you cannot touch a photon, and it is obvious from the experiments just described that a light wave is not just a scaled-down version of waves in a duck pond, nor is a quantum particle a scaled-down version of a baseball. In fact, the nature of light cannot be represented as a scaled-down version of anything we are familiar with. It has its own nature, whatever that may be, and what we know about it is what happens in different experiments. Luckily for us, the situation is not entirely strange. What happens in some experiments can be modeled by a wave; in others, by a particle. Often, as when we have to deal with the electron cloud surrounding an atom, neither of those models is very helpful in understanding what happens and we trust the model whose root is in mathematics. It may not satisfy all our desires, but at least it works.
A Google Scholar search for Bohr and "light frequency" gets about 1,890 results, but little that looks interesting.  A search for Bohr and "insuperable difficulties" finds about 200 results, some of which look worth examining further.  But I'm not sure what I'd be looking for.  More details and better quotes, perhaps.  The question then becomes: When do I stop the research and get back to writing a paper about photons?  Pretty soon, I think.   

February 3, 2019
- I awoke this morning realizing something that I should have realized long ago: Mathematicians cannot replace their two model versions of light with a single model without acknowledging that at least one (or maybe both) of the mathematical models they have been using for over a hundred years is nonsense.

To people who view mathematics as being infallible and virtually the Word of God, admitting that a mathematical equation you have been using all your life is total crap is about the same as admitting that you cannot tell the difference between the truth and total crap.  It took mathematicians about a thousand years to admit that their mathematical model of the universe which placed the earth at the center was just crap.  

What's most frustrating for me is that I realized all this back in August of 2018.  I wrote comment after comment about what Carver Mead had to say on the subject.  And some of those comments were just repeats of things I had quoted in August of 2016.  Here's a Carver Mead quote I used in August of 2016 and 2018:
"Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with mathematics--it's the language we use to express the precise relations of physical law. But there is an increasing tendency to mistake the language for the physics itself. Once we lose the conceptual foundations, the whole thing becomes a shell game."  
The problem is: Carver Mead only talks about the general problem with the way mathematicians think. He doesn't specifically address the way mathematicians use two different models for light and do not seem to care that the models are incompatible. 

Another problem is that I do not agree with Carver Mead's view on the nature of a photon.  In his paper from 2000, "The Nature of Light: What are Photons?," Mead provides his view of what a photon looks like.  To him a photon is just a "transaction" between atoms.  As I stated in my August 2016 comments, to me, a photon is excess energy looking for a home.  A photon cannot be a "transaction between atoms" if an atom absorbs a photon and does not re-emit it again to another atom.  And that happens when photon energy is converted into chemical energy via photosynthesis. 

I don't think the question of "What is a photon?" is going to be resolved until everyone agrees on the shape and size of photon.  And it's rare to find anyone who even seems to address that issue.

This morning, I used Google Scholar to search for articles about photons versus waves and mathematical models, and I found another article that I had previously found and filed.  It's titled "Evolution of the modern photon." Unfortunately, it is not searchable, which also means I cannot copy and paste quotes from it until after I run it through a converter program.  Until then, I have to retype passages I want to quote, such as:
One of the most puzzling features of standard quantum mechanics, especially to undergraduate students, has been the wave-particle duality.  The duality of light, coupled with the corpuscular photon model, has been given many conflicting interpretations and has promoted almost universal confusion among nonexperts.
I certainly cannot disagree with that.  Later the paper says,
Elementary survey course textbooks usually leave the impression that the photon is a small, spherical entity along the lines suggested by Lewis and is the ultimate constituent of electric current.
If a photon is spherical, how can it be polarized?  Is the sphere supposed to be spinning, like the Earth, with a North Pole and South Pole?  I have a problem viewing anything that spins to also travel at the speed of light.  Time stops at the speed of light, but a spinning object would allow time to be measured by the rate of spin.  If you accept a photon as being a spinning sphere, you are also saying that time does NOT stop at the speed of light.

The paper then goes on to describe three different models of photons.  I'm going to have to study the paper to see if I can figure out the differences between the models.  They seem to be mostly mathematical differences.  A search for a searchable version of that paper brought me to another paper titled "Arguments Concerning Photon Concepts" that also looks interesting.  I'm going to have to study that one, too.

Last week, I also browsed through the two books titled "Fundamentals of Photonics" that I mentioned in my February 1 comment
Basically, they are both about Quantum Mechanics, and that means that all answers are found via mathematical equations.  I didn't see anything in either book that clarified anything for me. 

So, I looked for other sources.  I entered "What is a photon?' into Google Scholar and it provided a link to a book titled "The Nature of Light: What is a Photon?" edited by Chandra Roychoudhuri, A.F. Kracklauer, and Kathy Creath.  Browsing through the book, I saw the first part was a paper titled "Light Reconsidered" by Arthur Zajonc, which I could also access independently via Google Scholar.  It looks like an interesting article, but it ends with this:
To my mind, Einstein was right to caution us concerning light. Our understanding of it has increased enormously in the 100 years since Planck, but I suspect light will continue to confound us, while simultaneously luring us to inquire ceaselessly into its nature.
I hesitate to sit down and study any article about photons that ends by saying the subject "will continue to confound us."  But, I put it in my reading queue.  I also noticed that the paper used another paper with an interesting title as a reference: “Single Photons Stick Together” by Philippe Grangier.  Since my impression was that photons do NOT "stick together," I searched for and found a copy of that article via Google Scholar.  It begins with this sentence:
Can two photons that have never met know something about each other? 
What kind of question is that?  Who would ask such a question?  It would have to be someone whose mind is already set on some fantasy about distant photons being connected even when there is no possible way for them to be connected. The article seems to start with a belief developed from Quantum Mechanics, and then sets about confirming that belief without any real evidence whatsoever.  Just mathematics.

What am I looking for?  I'm looking for some article or book that will say that my understanding of photons cannot possibly be true because ________.  (Fill in the blank.)  Mostly, what I'm finding instead is article after article with someone else's notion of how light works, but with the understanding that they do not know if light is a wave or a photons, since they do not care.  As long as they can mathematically model their beliefs one way or another, that's all the care about.

But, I also found a few articles that might contain something that will help me get out of this endless search for an answer that no one else in the world has been able to find, an answer to the question "What is a Photon?"

Comments for Friday, February 1, 2019, thru Saturday, February 2, 2019:

February 2, 2019 - I had to stop at a grocery store this afternoon to pick up some supplies, and while I was unloading my basket onto the conveyor belt I realized there was an argument going on between the elderly black man in front of me and the big beefy white guy in front of him.  The elderly black guy was chuckling, so it wasn't a heated argument.  But the two men didn't seem to know each other, so you couldn't call it a "friendly argument."  The white guy was ranting about building a wall along the border with Mexico, and how it would stop all the drugs that were illegally coming into this country.  The black guy was just shaking his head, chuckling, and saying it was a waste of money.

It looked like it was safe for me to agree with the black guy when they both glanced at me, so I did so.  A wall isn't going to stop drug smugglers.  Drug smugglers dig tunnels under walls when there is a wall to get past.  Mostly, though, they smuggle drugs in by boat, by plane and by hiding them inside trucks and other vehicles that pass through the customs check points.

I didn't get a chance to argue that point before the white guy picked up his groceries and left.  But, I wish I had been there to see how the argument started.  It had to have been started by the white guy.  What kind of person would start a political argument in a line at a grocery store?  I imagine it is the same kind of guy who would yell at the TVs at the gym, like the guy I saw do that at my gym last week.  It's the type of guy who is accustomed to getting his way by force

How do you argue with someone who gets his way by force, instead of by logic and reasoning?  The white guy in the grocery line and the guy at the gym were obviously driven by hate of some kind.  There is no way to reason with people who are driven by hate and who use force to get their way.  Luckily we can still out-vote them.  

February 1, 2019
- Yesterday, I was browsing through a couple papers related to the article
titled "Physicists Have Built a Machine That Actually Breaks Two Rules of Light" that I mentioned in my January 30 comment.  Somewhere, while doing research, I saw mention of a book titled "Fundamentals of Photonics."  Hmm.  The word "photonics" is defined this way:
Photonics is the physical science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and sensing.
So, photonics is about photons!  I've been searching for information about how photons work!  It seems that instead of looking for articles about photons, I should have been looking for articles about photonics!  When I searched for the book "Fundamentals of Photonics," I found two books with that title.

Fundamentals of Photonics #1
Fundamentals of Photonics #2

The first one, by B.E.A. Saleh and M.C. Teich, is the one mentioned in the source I found.  It says this on page vi of the Forward:
The theories of light are presented at progressively increasing levels of difficulty.  Thus light is described first as rays, then scalar waves, then electromagnetic waves, and, finally, photons.
The photon theory of light is the most difficult!?!?   As I see it, looking at light purely as photons would greatly simplify everything.

The book's Table of Contents shows these chapters:
1. Ray Optics
2. Wave Optics
3. Beam Optics
4. Fourier Optics
5. Electromagnetic Optics
6. Polarization and Crystal Optics
7. Guided Wave Optics
8. Fiber Optics
9. Resonator Optics
10. Statistical Optics
11. Photon Optics
12. Photons and Atoms
13. Laser Amplifiers
14. Lasers
15. Photons in Semiconductors
16. Semiconductor Photon Sources
17. Semiconductor Photon Detectors
18. Electro-optics
19. Nonlinear Optics
20. Acousto-optics
21. Photonic Switching and Computing
22. Fiber-Optic Communications
Chapter 11 begins on page 386 with this:
Light consists of particles called photons.  A photon has zero rest mass and carries electromagnetic energy and momentum.  It also carries an intrinsic angular momentum (or spin) that governs its polarization properties.  The photon travels at the speed of light in a vacuum (c0); its speed is retarded in matter.  Photons also have a wavelike character that determines their localization properties in space and the rules by which they interfere and diffract.
If light photons spin, how can 3D movies work?  In theaters, TWO projectors produce a double image on the screen.  The 3D glasses let you see one image though your left eye and the second image through your right eye.  If the photons coming from the screen were spinning, how could they be oriented correctly when they reach your eyes?

And I think the idea that photons interact and interfere with each other is nonsense because photons have no "wavelike character."  So, it seems the author of the book is going to force photons to behave like waves because waves are understood and photons are not. 

But, it looks like the book has a few chapters that are definitely worth studying.

The second book, edited by Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri, consists of "10 modules written by experts in the photonics field" and has this on page 6:
Scientists have observed that light energy can behave like a wave as it moves through space, or it can behave like a discrete particle with a discrete amount of energy (quantum) that can be absorbed and emitted. As we study and use light, both models are helpful.

Concept of a photon

The particle-like nature of light is modeled with photons. A photon has no mass and no charge. It is a carrier of electromagnetic energy and interacts with other discrete particles (e.g., electrons, atoms, and molecules).
A beam of light is modeled as a stream of photons, each carrying a well-defined energy that is dependent upon the wavelength of the light.
Groan!  I'm trying to find a source that describes light as photons without any mention of waves or beams.  Any source that uses two different models for light is a source that does not understand light.  As I see it, light consists of photons - PERIOD - and photons have a disk shape, which physicists mistakenly think makes it "wavelike."

The second book might contain something worthwhile, but I'll definitely be focusing on chapters 11 and 12 of the first book.  And it looks like the definition of the word "photonics" needs to be changed to:

Photonics is the physical science of light generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and sensing, in which photon models are used when the particle properties of light can be accurately modeled using mathematics, and wave models of light are used when the wavelike properties of light can be accurately modeled using mathematics.  No one has any idea how light really works.
I was thinking of adding an additional sentence: "It's like the blind leading the blind."  But, I decided that would be a bit much.

© 2019 by Ed Lake