humor, mundane miracle, philosophy, photography, science

Partially Reflected Light

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As the natural light outdoors fades, a mundane miracle occurs.  Tho I have no supernatural powers, I create light and see that it is good.  There is much to celebrate in the simple act of flipping a switch, and the resulting light provides many other mundane miracles to ponder.

Light ~ Pic and a Word Challenge #133

Before I close the curtains, a pine tree across the lawn is still visible thru the window.  Conversely, a bird roosting in the pine could see the light fixture I have just turned on.  Most of the light that my fixture throws toward the window goes right thru the glass, harmless and unharmed.  My fist could not do that.

It gets better.

Some of the light that hits the window is reflected back.  I see my fixture as a ghostly sphere, apparently hovering between me and the pine.  Hmmm.  Consider a single photon among the zillions that whiz from my fixture toward the window.  How does it decide whether to continue on toward the pine or bounce back toward me?

globe-pine-1_840x840

I know.  Photons are mindless particles that do not decide anything.  They just do whatever a divinely perfect knowledge of physics would say they do, and a humanly possible imperfect knowledge of physics is rather good at saying what big groups of them do.

By far the best current human knowledge says that what a single photon does is unpredictable.  Not just unpredictable because we do not know all the details about the laws of nature or how the photon is moving or what is in the glass where the photon hits it.  Not just unpredictable because exact calculations are not feasible. Intrinsically unpredictable!  On a photon-by-photon basis, even divinely perfect knowledge of the rules and the current situation does not determine what will happen in the next picosecond.  Even God must wait and see.

Dunno whether I will succeed in posting more about intrinsic unpredictability and its consequences.  (Don’t hold your breath.)  Without wrangling equations, a great deal can be still be said about the quantum physics behind partially reflected light and its wider implications.  See pages 173-176 of the excellent book Dice World by Brian Clegg (or web pages like the one U can visit by clicking here, if U do not have the book handy).

 

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5 thoughts on “Partially Reflected Light

  1. OK. Now you have me wandering into dark territory!

    To dark matter, which makes up most of the stuff in the universe, we — meaning our bodies — are as permeable as the image of that china ball in our mind’s eye. As if we are not even there. Which is fitting, because we only know dark matter is there because the math tells us it has to be. Otherwise, the math tells us, we would not be here. Which, without a thorough understanding of the math — our god, if you will — we must simply accept on faith.

    There’s an unholy conundrum for ya. =)

    A fascinating look at light… thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. No need to wrestle with equations just now, I think you have created a philosophical reflection on the essence of photon’ness– in the territory of ..’the world, the universe and everything’. That’s great.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Light travels through glass in either direction. Light travels to glass and some reflects back while the rest travels through. Or is the molecular structure of a glass pane more like an imperfect mirror, in that only molecules in perfect position to reflect light in the precisely opposite direction bounce back? The side with the brighter light is the more difficult to see through, presumably because so much of the light reflects back. What if the light on both sides is equally bright? Does the glass appear perfectly transparent, without reflection?

    As always, you incite/insight me to think.

    Liked by 1 person

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