Navigating effortlessly across the vast void of space, photons travel at a steady pace of 299,792,458 meters every tick of a second. Neither faster nor slower. However, this uniformity is disrupted when these electromagnetic waves intersect with the electromagnetic fields that encircle particles.
Journeying through such terrain, the pace of light diminishes significantly. This effect is observable when light bends as it ventures through a water-filled glass or even in the brilliant spectrum display within a rainbow.
Though 19th-century formulas on light and electromagnetism can illustrate this lag, capturing the sudden shift in light’s velocity across different media in terms of physical waves remains elusive.
A team of three physicists from Tampere University has proposed an answer to this quandary, but it necessitated reevaluating some foundational concepts regarding the path of a light wave across time and a single spatial dimension.
Light’s velocity, symbolized by “c”, sets the ultimate boundary for data transmission in a vacuum. While objects can practically decelerate this transmission, the special theory of relativity asserts that this intrinsic characteristic remains unaltered.
Yet, occasionally, physics requires a speculative leap to tread uncharted territories. Thus, Koivurova, alongside his peers Charles Robson and Marco Ornigotti, momentarily shelved this recognized fact to ponder the implications of a common wave equation allowing light waves to pick up speed. At first glance, their proposed solution seemed perplexing.
It was the introduction of a stable velocity as a benchmark that made the puzzle pieces align. Launch a spacecraft into the vast cosmos at a particular velocity, and those aboard perceive time and space differently compared to stationary observers. This differential is attributed to relativity, a hypothesis consistently verified across numerous scenarios.
By juxtaposing an accelerating wave with a consistent light velocity, the team’s inventive approach to the standard wave equation mirrored the peculiarities dictated by relativity. This insight offered significant contributions to discussions surrounding the momentum shift of a light wave as it transitions to a different medium.
Regardless of the wave type, be it in an electromagnetic sphere, a pond’s surface disturbance, or a string’s oscillation, relativity principles and momentum preservation must be incorporated as their velocities increase. This broad application led to another significant, albeit slightly anticlimactic, outcome.
Whether astronauts are speeding towards Alpha Centauri or their kin age gradually on our home planet, each group’s chronometers mark what’s termed as proper time. These timeframes might have differing second counts, yet both are consistent indicators of time’s passage within their environment.
Arguing that all waves undergo proper time due to relativity, the physicists suggest that any wave-based physics should adhere to a consistent time flow. A flow that cannot be inverted selectively. Currently, the mathematical solutions only encompass a single spatial (and temporal) dimension.
Further tests are required to ascertain the validity of this wave perspective. Should this be the case, our shared voyage in the Cosmos indeed follows a predetermined path.