## Friday, 14 January 2011

### Absolute Zero and the Speed of Light. Waves, Particles, Energy, it's all a bit confusing.

An unusual thought has just popped into my head, and it has got me thinking, I was watching a doc about temperature last night. It is mostly normal, basic stuff, most people should know but clearly don’t; anyway, they are talking about Absolute Zero minus 273 C or 0K, and how you never can reach it. No matter how hard they try to reduce the temperature, by the methods required, they can only ever get close to it. Now this has got me thinking, we say you cannot go faster than the speed of light and when we try to achieve that speed we fall short, getting to 99.99 whatever percent of it.

I am a little confused, maybe I need to do a little bit of research, but all night it has been going through my head, the idea of light being a wave and a particle. The nagging thought that won’t leave me is how light travels at the speed it travels at, and does it do this as a wave or as a particle, I presume the former. Then I thought some more and realised that a wave is only a frequency so to speak (apologies for my laymen’s terms here), the visible part of the whole Electromagnetic spectrum, and then I got more confused, because the spectrum based on the frequency, changes the wave, shorter waves are gamma, x-ray, ultraviolet. Longer waves radio, infrared, and the infrared bit are where the heat comes from. Now what is confusing me, is this; if temperature is just the speed in which atoms move, how do Electromagnetic waves move at the speed of light through deep space, if the temperature through parts of space is near to being, Absolute Zero. Or have I missed something here? If atoms find it difficult to move when temps near Absolute Zero, how does light move at the speed of light, if you know what I mean.

The other perplexing thing for me is this; light can be a particle and a wave, does this mean that the energy emitted hits the particle that makes light, the photon; or is the photon travelling through space at the speed of light, as a wave? Wow this is the most baffled I have been by science for a while, well the basic science I know at least.

Surely the speed of atoms cannot be the only way to produce heat, since the light bursting from every star would produce more heat in a similar vein the amount of light we see from stars. How come we can see light from a distant star but not feel its heat? Or is this to do with the frequency of waves, plus how does the heat or light get from the star to us? I know this maybe a stupid question, but I don’t know. Then again is it just that somehow the energy from the sun has an effect on the atoms even at massive distances causing them to move hence creating the heat?

I realise that the sun is a massive fusion reactor and the smashing of Hydrogen atoms together, fusing them, creates Helium and a tiny amount of energy is released and this energy somehow blasts out of the sun and in approximately 8 minutes, it reaches us in the form of light, heat, and all the other waves of the electromagnetic spectrum, some are blocked by our atmosphere and our own electromagnetic field, others (the ones we use and need) hit our planet and create life. What is the energy, as it leaves our sun and how does it travel here so quickly? And of course it then travels passed us and continues onwards and upwards to the outer solar system and then on further. Is this just plasma? Is the energy travelling as plasma, or I am missing the boat again. I know I am waffling now and I have completely gone off on a tangent from where I originally started, but it is all so confusing.

Space is cold, just above Absolute Zero, at these temperatures atoms have no energy and so cannot move, yet the movement of atoms and I presume particles causes heat, or at least the rise in temperature, yet electromagnetic energy does not seem to be affected by this. It can move at incredible speeds no matter the temperature, yet this does not make sense since energy according to what I have read, “In physics, energy (from the Greek ἐνέργεια - energeia, "activity, operation", from ἐνεργός - energos, "active, working") is a scalar physical quantity that describes the amount of work that can be performed by a force, an attribute of objects and systems that is subject to a conservation law. ...”

But isn’t light energy? And if it is, how the hell does it travel so fast without creating heat? Unless it doesn’t, and something else is at work, something we have not figured out yet. Or is it that heat can only be created by a particle moving fast (atom molecule etc), because of the Electromagnetic spectrum.

So back to my original idea about the connection between Absolute Zero and the Speed of Light, one moves fast as a wave I presume (since if it was a particle it would create heat) without producing heat. The other is a circumstance of no movement, the point where there is no energy and atoms or particles are static, and change into a superconductor and work in some kind of unusual tandem state.

Haha I suppose this is why physics and the Universe and science and everything involved in the whys and wherefores of our existence is so fascinating. I could sit here all day writing like this but I can imagine it would be dull and boring to read. It might come in useful in the future though, at least for me it will.

Back to my original argument again, I will have to think it through further, but something seems to connect the two, apart from the obvious, energy or the lack of. Or is it our perception of this energy that is the key, does it mean anything to have speed of light multiplied by speed of particles or is it divided or is it particles by waves, who knows but it is fascinating to think about. Brilliant I haven’t had a barmy thought like that for ages.