"Mass 2" - Pieterlen, Switzerland, 4/4/16

So matter is always moving. hmmmm...

We think of matter as solid---"real stuff", so to speak.

When you get right down to it, the subatomic level, it's actually mostly space. That's OK in physics because if it's more like energy than matter, who cares? They're just different versions of the same thing, and both have mass.

So where does mass come from?

I think it's interesting to consider those things that are known to have a zero rest mass. Light, for example.

NOTE - I'm going to diverge from general relativity and ignore quantum mechanics for a little while.

Light may be thought of as a particle that travels at, naturally, the speed of light. Now no particle with any amount of mass can travel the speed of light. If you try to accelerate it, its mass increases without bound (to infinity as it were) as it approaches light speed, and there isn't enough energy in the universe (or anywhere else) to get it over that hump!

It's easy to see that light can't have mass. Oops, but it does. The trick is it has no "rest" mass. If you could catch it and stop it, it would have zero mass. That means no matter, and no energy. To me that means it wouldn't exist. We can't stop light, so light keeps zipping around the universe at light speed with measurable mass, and with completely verifiable existence. Sort of like the shark that has to keep swimming in order to stay alive.

Now-- We have to remember we are dealing with things that have no common analogies. It's understood that when the conceptual model fails, it's the fault of the model, not something fundamentally wrong with the physics. The physics works. When you assume what Einstein discovered and make predictions and build rocket ships and such, the predictions and the rocket ships work.

What philosophy tries to do is discover what the physics tells us about the circumstances of our existence, always remembering that we are part of a closed system. Our timelike, spacelike universe is all we know. That means (as Plato observed) we can never really see our universe as it is. A part of something can never see the whole of which it is a part.

So, knowing that there are limitations to my train of thought, I proceed. I'm not proving anything, just offering evidence for certain general conclusions that I believe have other paths leading to these same conclusions.

But I digress...

The other thing of interest with light is another couple of results of special relativity;

1) Anything approaching the speed of light not only increases in mass, its experience of time decreases. Time slows down. At the speed of light, time stops. Once again, nothing matterlike can achieve this. If the infinite mass problem weren't insurmountable (which it is), you can't continue to accelerate as time slows. Actually, the faster you go, the slower you go! 60 miles per hour becomes 60 miles per day becomes 60 miles per week, becomes 60 miles per month becomes...etc. It's like...no, it's exactly the same as...a bad dream.

2) Any thing approaching the speed of light not only increases in mass, and its experience of time decreases, it also gets shorter. It decreases in space in the direction that it is traveling. At the speed of light its length in this direction is zero!. I don't have to tell you that this third strike against anything material is just as convicting as the other two as far as actual existence goes.

So light travels at the speed of light but with no time and no space.  


Light at rest can't exist because it has no mass and therefore no matter or energy. Light at the speed of light is without time or space. Sorry. Not only is light unable to exist like this, from light's point of view the universe can't even exist. 

As for its velocity, to back up to very basic physics, there is no motion without time, so the speed of snail is impossible, let alone the speed of light.  One way out of this conundrum is that time and space stops only from the point of view of light.  The rest of us left in the dust still have time and space, still see light moving, etc.

Still, I'm left uncomfortable that something that from its own point of view doesn't exist has mass and velocity and thus, momentum--the fundamental characteristic of our perceived universe. Imagine yourself as light. If you really didn't exist, wouldn't it be offensive that someone was using you to write blogs by? Sort of ghoulish, I think.

Where will this go?

Well, one thing I want to take forward is the connection between mass and motion.

----- Hugh

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