QR3.3.2 The Energy of Light

Energy is a useful concept in physics. It is the capacity to do work, defined as a force times the distance it acts. Work is thus the result of energy and energy is stored work, e.g. a falling object acquires kinetic energy as a gravity force acts on it over the distance it falls and that stored energy is released when it hits the ground. This concept applies to other things like heat and Einstein suggested that even mass is a form of energy. The idea that a measurable abstract quantity transforms into different forms but is conserved overall has been very successful.

What then is energy in quantum processing terms? We know that light energy depends on frequency so higher frequencies of light like x-rays have more energy. If short wavelength light distributes the same quantum process over a shorter wavelength, each node gets more processing per cycle. Energy transfer is then the quantum processing transfer rate at the node. It follows that light with a short wavelength transfers more energy because fewer nodes in the wavelength means that each gets a bigger share of the quantum process and so completes it faster. A long wavelength photon in contrast divides the same process among more nodes so each runs at a slower rate which means less energy transfer. Higher light frequencies have more energy because each node gets more processing “work”.

At the beginning of last century, it was found that the energy of light varies linearly with frequency. This was unexpected since light was seen as a wave and the energy rate of a water wave varies as the square of its frequency. Physical wave theory predicted that a furnace that emitted light at many frequencies should increase at all frequencies as it got hotter, so a very hot furnace should in theory give a lethal dose of x-rays, but in practice it didn’t. That light emitted from furnaces didn’t obey the laws of physical waves was called at the time the ultra-violet catastrophe.

Planck solved the problem by making atoms emit energy in multiples of a basic quantum amount later called Planck’s constant. Assuming the light emitted was not continuous gave Planck’s relation:

Light Energy = Plank’s constant x Frequency

Now the light energy emitted varied directly with frequency, not with its square, and this predicted the observed radiation correctly. Einstein then generalized this based on the photo-electric effect to conclude that it applied to all light. Yet why light waves were delivered in the “lumps” we call photons was a mystery that remains to this day. Why don’t light waves act like water waves?

In quantum realism, light comes in lumps because a photon is the basic quantum command that no network effect can be less than. Quantum processing can’t be less than one quantum cycle because this is the fundamental network operation. How much the quantum process is shared among the photon wavelength defines how many cycles each node takes to complete it, i.e. the light frequency. If the wavelength is longer, each node gets a smaller share and so takes longer to complete its cycle. It follows that energy as the processing rate at the node varies inversely with wavelength and thus directly with its frequency, as Planck deduced from the data. More exactly, if Planck’s constant is the transfer of one quantum process per second, energy as the node processing rate will be Planck’s constant times its frequency, i.e. Planck’s relation. Quantum realism thus derives Planck’s relation from first principles.

Equally a photon’s energy comes in discrete packets because its wavelength must change one node at a time. One less node running the same quantum process changes the per-node processing rate or energy by a fixed amount. Light energy is quantized because the wavelength of a photon is digital so it must reduce one Planck length at a time. Each node removed shortens the wavelength leaving the same processing to be shared by those remaining. As the wavelength reduces, higher frequencies are harder to come by, as removing one node from fewer nodes changes the energy more, hence the ultraviolet catastrophe didn’t happen. This predicts that the highest frequency of light, here called extreme light, occurs when its wavelength is two Planck lengths, and it must double its energy to reach the next frequency which is empty space!


PS. The derivation is: Let one photon be a quantum process shared over the nodes of its wavelength. Let h represent that process as energy, E be the photon processing rate at the node per cycle and n be the number of nodes in the photon wavelength. Since the processing is shared between n nodes, so is the energy h, so the photon processing rate at the node E = h/n. If f is the number of quantum cycles each node takes to complete a quantum process that can run in one node in one cycle, then f = 1/n. The Planck relation E = h.f then follows. Note that this describes quantum units. To get our energy E in per second terms one must multiply E by c, the speed of light that reflects the quantum grid cycle rate of 1043 cycles per second, so E = h.c/n. In this case our frequency f = c/n giving the same result E = h.f in our units.