QR3.3.2 The Energy of Light

Energy is the capacity to do work, defined as a force times the distance it acts, so work is the result of energy and energy is stored work, e.g. as an object falls under the force of gravity, it acquires kinetic energy as it falls and that energy is released when it hits the ground. Light has energy and according to Einstein, mass is also a form of energy. The idea that energy transforms into different forms but is conserved overall has been very successful.

What then is energy in processing terms? The energy of light depends on its frequency, so higher light frequencies like x-rays have more energy. If short wavelength light is the same quantum process distributed over fewer nodes, each gets a bigger processing share and so completes the process faster. A long wavelength photon in contrast spreads the same process over more nodes, so each takes longer to complete. If higher light frequencies have more energy because each node gets more processing, energy is the quantum processing rate at the node.

Over a century ago, the energy of light was found to vary linearly with frequency. This wasn’t expected, as light was seen as a wave and the energy rate of a water wave varies as the square of its frequency. If light was a physical wave, a furnace emitting 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

That light energy varied directly with frequency not its square predicted the observed radiation correctly. Einstein then generalized this to apply to all light, based on the photo-electric effect, but why light waves arrive in the “lumps” we call photons was a mystery that remains to this day.

If a photon represents the fundamental process of the quantum network, it is basic in the sense that no activity can be less than it. Quantum processing can’t be less than a transverse circle because this is the fundamental network operation. How much this process is shared among the nodes of the photon wavelength defines how long each node takes to complete it, which is the light frequency. If the wavelength is longer, each node gets a smaller share and so takes longer to complete the process, so energy as the node processing rate varies inversely with wavelength and directly with 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, which is Planck’s relation. Quantum realism thus derives Planck’s relation from first principles. We can call the fundamental operation of the quantum network a Planck process.

A water wave’s energy seems to vary continuously but light waves can’t do this. A photon is one Planck process shared on a quantum network where every wavelength is a discrete number of nodes, so its wavelength can increase or decrease by one node but can’t vary continuously. It must change one node at a time so each energy change is discrete. A photon’s energy is quantized because its wavelength is digital.

One less node running the same process changes the node processing rate, or energy, by a fixed amount as each node removed shortens the wavelength by one, leaving those remaining to run the same processing. As the wavelength reduces, higher energies are harder to come by because removing one node from fewer nodes changes the energy more, so the ultraviolet catastrophe didn’t happen. This predicts that the highest frequency of light, here called extreme light, is a wavelength of two Planck lengths, and that it must double its energy to reach the next frequency, which is empty space!

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Note. 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 l be the number of nodes in the photon wavelength. Since the processing is shared between l nodes, so is the energy h, so the photon processing rate at the node E = h/l. 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/l. 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/l. In this case our frequency f = c/l giving the same result, which is E = h.f in our units.