Photons are not to Be Taken Lightly

Last night I was granted one of those magical bedtime conversations with Simon that we share every now and then, about the nature of the universe. We were reading Randall Munroe’s “How to”, the chapter on getting somewhere fast which entertained a thought 💭 experiment about a nifty scooter, able to accelerate at 1G for years.

Due to the mind boggling ways in which special relativity works, time discrepancy as it is experienced by the you driving the scooter and the universe outside will grow exponentially, until only a few decades later, you can actually observe the beginning of the heat death of the universe (if protons decay, Simon corrects me, because if they don’t, heat death won’t occur until 10 to the 10 to the 70 years from now). Which means you will be traveling more light years than how many light years you will feel passing by. And this got us thinking, again, what would you feel if you were light? Not a scooter going nearly at the speed of light but light itself?

As long as you are not going at the speed of light, Simon told me, you will continue experiencing time as normal. Even if you would be going at 99,9% of the speed of light. You will be getting the feeling as if the universe around you is contracting in the direction you’re traveling, as Randall Munroe explains. Then Simon thought for a bit.

So the gamma factor for the speed of light is infinite, which means the universe will be contracted infinitely. Into a plane. Nothing in front of you. So if there is literally no universe in front of you, how can you keep going forward? You can’t, so the only way to resolve this is that time is meaningless if you’re a photon.

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