The Nature of Light

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richrf
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 01:37 pm
Hi everyone,

I came across this quote of Einstein's while reading the book Catching the Light, The Entwined History of Light and the Mind, by Arthur Zajonc. (Prof. Zajonc is a Prof. of Physics at Amherst College and studies quantum optics.)
All the fifty years of conscious brooding has brought me no closer to the answer to the question, What are light quanta? Of course every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself.

I also found this very nice web page that explains with graphics in simple terms the wave-particle duality of light.

Einstein Explained - Explore - The Lab - Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Gateway to Science

Zajonc asks the question:

What is the nature of this invisible thing called light whose presence calls everything into view - excepting itself?

It is something interesting to ponder. Please comment if you please.

Rich


 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 01:46 pm
@richrf,
richrf;73719 wrote:
Hi everyone,

I came across this quote of Einstein's while reading the book Catching the Light, The Entwined History of Light and the Mind, by Arthur Zajonc. (Prof. Zajonc is a Prof. of Physics at Amherst College and studies quantum optics.)
All the fifty years of conscious brooding has brought me no closer to the answer to the question, What are light quanta? Of course every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is deluding himself.

I also found this very nice web page that explains with graphics in simple terms the wave-particle duality of light.

Einstein Explained - Explore - The Lab - Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Gateway to Science

Zajonc asks the question:

What is the nature of this invisible thing called light whose presence calls everything into view - excepting itself?

It is something interesting to ponder. Please comment if you please.

Rich





Photon - What is a photon?

Hope this helps.
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 01:52 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;73721 wrote:


I don` t really see how that helps. Say a proton is X. One can ask why X? You can answer by "X is a proton". Calling something with another name does not seem to take away the mystery.
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 02:02 pm
@vectorcube,
vectorcube;73725 wrote:
I don` t really see how that helps. Say a proton is X. One can ask why X? You can answer by "X is a proton". Calling something with another name does not seem to take away the mystery.


Yes, there is much mystery in the nature of light. The nature of it, along with sleep, is something I contemplate often.

Thanks for the comment.

Rich
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 03:16 pm
@vectorcube,
vectorcube;73725 wrote:
I don` t really see how that helps. Say a proton is X. One can ask why X? You can answer by "X is a proton". Calling something with another name does not seem to take away the mystery.


You should read the rest. It tells you what properties protons have, and how they relate to other particles. Do you find apples mysterious too?There is, probably more to learn about protons, and their relation to other particles, but that does not mean there is mystery. Just more to know.There used to be a TV show about a group of amateur detectives called, "I Love a Mystery". I think a number of people may have overdosed on it a while back.
 
richrf
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 04:14 pm
@kennethamy,
Some other nice quotes about quantum physics and relatively which revolve around the nature of light :

If anybody says he can think about quantum physics without getting giddy, that only shows he has not understood the first thing about them.
Niels Bohr

If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet.
Niels Bohr

For me, wave-particle duality continues to amaze me, as does the idea that light has the same speed in all frames of reference, thereby leading directly to the Special Relativity notion that time is relative - whatever time might be.

Nature is amazing!

Rich
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 04:23 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;73748 wrote:
You should read the rest. It tells you what properties protons have, and how they relate to other particles. Do you find apples mysterious too?There is, probably more to learn about protons, and their relation to other particles, but that does not mean there is mystery. Just more to know..



Say what? I don` t know how listing the causal properties of a proton really reduce the mystery. One can still ask why a proton has this set of causal properties in relation to other particles. At best, you can bring the whole set of causal relationships of every elementary particle, and their relation to one another. One can still ask why these fundemental relationship exist. To formalize it in a different way. To say a proton is X, where X is the dispositional property of a proton is to say it effective causal relation to the set of elementary particles {Y, D, E...}. The question would just then be why the set of has such and such causal power, and not somethnig else. It does not reduce the mystery at all.
Quote:


Just more to know.There used to be a TV show about a group of amateur detectives called, "I Love a Mystery". I think a number of people may have overdosed on it a while back



There are non-reducible mystery. For example: the methology of science and analytic philosophy is reductional in the sense that the field starts of with a set of semantic primitives( in philosophy), or a set of postulates derived from experiments( in physics). The foundation becomes the mystery, because we can ask why such and such axioms exist, or why things are build from such and such causal relationship. Why such causal relation exist in the first place.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 08:18 pm
@vectorcube,
vectorcube;73775 wrote:
Say what? I don` t know how listing the causal properties of a proton really reduce the mystery. One can still ask why a proton has this set of causal properties in relation to other particles. At best, you can bring the whole set of causal relationships of every elementary particle, and their relation to one another. One can still ask why these fundemental relationship exist. To formalize it in a different way. To say a proton is X, where X is the dispositional property of a proton is to say it effective causal relation to the set of elementary particles {Y, D, E...}. The question would just then be why the set of has such and such causal power, and not somethnig else. It does not reduce the mystery at all.





The question, why does the apple (proton) have the properties it has, is not the same question as the question, what properties does the apple (proton) have? Once we discover the properties of an apple (proton) the question, what is an apple (proton) is answered whether or not the question, why does the apple (proton) have the properties it has, is answered. Don't mix up the two questions. We can answer one question without answering all of them. But, in any case, what a proton is, is no more (or less) a mystery than, what an apple is. And once we have said what the properties of an apple or a proton is, the question has been answered (supposing, of course, that the answer is correct).
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 10:39 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;73828 wrote:
The question, why does the apple (proton) have the properties it has, is not the same question as the question, what properties does the apple (proton) have?



But that is not my question. I never ask about the properties of a proton, or anything of that sort.

The question was: "Does a list of dispositional properties of a proton really reduce the mystery of what a proton "is"?"( Focus on the keyword "mystery" in the previous sentence). My answer is no, and still no.

The mystery just reduce it to a more fundamental level. If you ask me for a list of dispositional properties of a proton, than i can tell you what the scientist had said about it, and that would be the answer. I doubt that when someone ask what a proton "is", they are really asking for a list of dispositional properties. They are probable more interested in the reason for why such weird dispositional properties exist in the first space. Why
the proton has such and such causal nature. It is to the latter question that i claim it does not reduce any mystery.





.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 11:05 pm
@vectorcube,
vectorcube;73868 wrote:
But that is not my question. I never ask about the properties of a proton, or anything of that sort.

The question was: "Does a list of dispositional properties of a proton really reduce the mystery of what a proton "is"?"( Focus on the keyword "mystery" in the previous sentence). My answer is no, and still no.

The mystery just reduce it to a more fundamental level. If you ask me for a list of dispositional properties of a proton, than i can tell you what the scientist had said about it, and that would be the answer. I doubt that when someone ask what a proton "is", they are really asking for a list of dispositional properties. They are probable more interested in the reason for why such weird dispositional properties exist in the first space. Why
the proton has such and such causal nature. It is to the latter question that i claim it does not reduce any mystery.





.

What is the mystery of what a proton is, or as you write, "is"? Is there a difference between is and "is"? What is it supposed to be? Maybe that would help me.
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 11:25 pm
@kennethamy,
kennethamy;73879 wrote:
What is the mystery of what a proton is, or as you write, "is"? Is there a difference between is and "is"? What is it supposed to be? Maybe that would help me.



I don` t know what you are asking me. You ask me a question, and i give you an answer. If you ask me what is the dispositional properties of a proton. I will give you a list of dispositions. If you ask me does a list of dispositional properties of a proton reduce the mystery of a proton. I say no. The reason is that the mystery merely transfers to a more fundamental level. If you can give me a question, i can try to give you an answer.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 11:34 pm
@vectorcube,
vectorcube;73886 wrote:
I don` t know what you are asking me. You ask me a question, and i give you an answer. If you ask me what is the dispositional properties of a proton. I will give you a list of dispositions. If you ask me does a list of dispositional properties of a proton reduce the mystery of a proton. I say no. The reason is that the mystery merely transfers to a more fundamental level. If you can give me a question, i can try to give you an answer.


It seems as though you're contriving your own mystery. Any new information (another answer) will simply lead you to believing the mystery has merely "transferred over".

First, why do you believe there is a mystery, and secondly, if you do believe any answer will simply "transfer the mystery", how will you ever be satisfied?
 
vectorcube
 
Reply Tue 30 Jun, 2009 11:48 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;73890 wrote:
It seems as though you're contriving your own mystery. Any new information (another answer) will simply lead you to believing the mystery has merely "transferred over".

First, why do you believe there is a mystery, and secondly, if you do believe any answer will simply "transfer the mystery", how will you ever be satisfied?



I answered that question sometime back. Namely, if a proton has dispositional property X. This presupposes a set of other elementary particles that the protons interact with that give rise to X. The mystery than becomes why the collection of elementary particles have the such a causal structure. In science, and in analytic philosophy, the methology is reductional in the sense that both systems are builded up by assumpting a minimum set of assumptions. In Philosophy, the minimum set of assumptions are a set of semantic primitives, while in science, the set are physical postulates generalized from experiments. Some questions are really asking why such and such postulates hold. Since postuates are non-reductive( because they are postuates). There is always a mystery to why the world is structure in such and such ways at the most fundamental level of reality.

Quote:

if you do believe any answer will simply "transfer the mystery", how will you ever be satisfied?



If you answer why to every answer that is ever posted to you. It is either going to go on forever, or stop somewhere. The latter case is the brute fact case. You can ask why this brute fact? It could be a brute fact, or not. Maybe it is just limitation on one ` s ability to get the right answer. If it is a brute fact, the mystery is why such a fact hold, and not some other fact. In the non-brute fact case, the mystery is never gone, but reduce to a more, and more fundamental physical law . In either case, there is also the mystery of why such case hold in the first space. Ie: Say the non-brute fact case hold, then one can ask why this infinite sequence of causal laws hold, and not some other infinite sequence of causal laws etc hold. In both case, you have the mystery of why one option hold, and not something else.
 
richrf
 
Reply Wed 1 Jul, 2009 08:05 am
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;73890 wrote:
It seems as though you're contriving your own mystery. Any new information (another answer) will simply lead you to believing the mystery has merely "transferred over".

First, why do you believe there is a mystery, and secondly, if you do believe any answer will simply "transfer the mystery", how will you ever be satisfied?


It could be that different people find different things mysterious. Do you find the behavior of photons in the recent double-slit and non-local experiments spooky?

Rich
 
 

 
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