2008-08-31

The Speed of Light, or, Where do these ideas come from, anyway?

They pop into my head and won't go away until I deal with them, that's where they come from!

Not quite sure where, oh, right, that's where it came from!

Was still musing over some stuff from the previous post, mulling over the reality that there are no natural laws, just out best approximations as to how things work, and every generation or so evidence accumulates to the point that we have to admit that the latest approximation was also in error. And the new conservatives appear, last generations radicals, tied to the old radicalism which is no longer radical but established, unwilling, like their predecessors, to look at the mounting evidence that we now have enough further knowledge to justify another paradigm shift in our thinking about How Things Work. At the same time, a renewed attack may occur by the defenders of yesterday's news, who argue that if this approximation was wrong, maybe the previous one was actually still valid, radical conservatism at work.

Ideas never get successfully replaced in the hard sciences unless the new ideas are a significant improvement in describing How Things Work in regard to Observed Data. But it always has to be remembered that these are approximations, and out conclusions may still be inn error.

Take the speed of sound. The speed sound travels in one atmosphere of pressure is pretty solid, but for a long time people argued that you couldn't actually travel faster than sound, that the sound barrier was a physical barrier which would prevent anything from exceeding it, this explaining why nothing was observed traveling faster than sound, other than light... Light travels faster than sound in one atmosphere, remember the old thing about counting the number of seconds after the lightning flash and the thunder arriving, the shorter the interval the closer the lightning?

But then the folks down at White Sands broke the sound barrier, and now we speak glibly of Mach One, Mach Two, etc., being multiples of speed of sound and how much faster your travelling, the odd phenomenon of seeing jets travel past and only later hearing the sound of their passage, other weird stuff.

So they shifted to light being a limiting factor, dragging Einstein and his Theory of Relativity in. Which is pure theory, as we haven't been able to test it yet, so in that it successfully allows us to predict results it is useful, but when there are discrepancies between the results and what we expected, yes, recheck to see if there were errors in our procedure, etc., but note the weird results, if procedural errors report the whole thing to aid others in not making the same mistake, but if everything seems clean, then reporting the anomalous results and the verifying actions taken that new avenues for research may be taken, greater understanding gained, new paradigms developed which more accurately predict how things work...

Each new understanding launches new technologies, which result in finer measurements and manipulations, spurring on the day the approximations of the new understanding are tested and found to no longer keep pace with our tools of research and analysis.

Personally, I've no real idea if light is a limiting factor, if one can or cannot travel faster than light, but I have a ton of questions and challenges... which I don't have the background to formulate in a manner that, in my mind, would prove testable. So I'm left with my feeling that it is no more reasonable to presume Light is a barrier than it was to presume that Sound was a barrier. The presumption of Sound being a barrier could have prevented anyone from performing any tests which required it to not be a barrier to succeed, as a waste of time and energy if nothing else. Thankfully, funding was attainable and Sound was proven not to be a final barrier. At some point there are speed barriers in an atmosphere, due to limits on compression of matter. Speed barriers, however, do presume moving from point a to point b by passing through every point in between, points that have finite mass and distance, that interact in terms of attraction and repulsion, that have physicality, as it were.

OK, I think current theory presumes nothing can travel as fast as light except light itself. Can one build things from light? Quanta never at rest, etc., etc., etc., but can you shape light, give it any kind of form, structure? If you can constrain light, can you then shape it? And can one develop a technology to store information in coherent light, ideally in a form which can be self-extracting, where the light structure can, at a predetermined time or in a predefined environment make this information manifest in non-luminal form? We interact with light everyday, directing it with mirrors, intensifying it into lasers which we then use to shape metal and do other stuff, I suspect heating water is possible, can we ever create a closed loop? If we ever became capable of doing this, then while we, ourselves, may not be able to travel the speed of light, we still might be able to spread our form of life as a downloadable, self-replicating worm.

And if we ever were able to do so, on our heads be it if we develop a virus instead of a properly developed, controlled, delivery system.

If we ever developed anything remotely similar to the scanning technology utilized in Star Trek's transporter technology, light constructs would allow us to achieve the stars. Just one question, would we be conscious while in such a construct, and if so, would we want to re-modulate into our original physical forms? Could we manipulate luminal constructs from inside? What time-sense would one have? I don't think it would be the same as relativity calls for in re massed objects approaching the speed of light, what would life be like for, to borrow a term from Star Trek, photonic lifeforms, but lifeforms not dependant upon non-photonic means of rendition.

Could be the core concept for an interesting work of Sociological Science Fiction... wonder how it might develop in comparison to Alexei Panshin's Rite of Passage.

This post didn't go anywhere near where I thought it would go!

Past time for this solidiform to ingest solids, so...

Post this Puppy!

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