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ZetaTalk: Light Particles
Note: written on Feb 15, 1997.
In the recent past, humans considered the world around them to be composed of either mass or energy, energy being anything they could not put their hands
around. Only within the past century has the notion that both mass and energy are solid particles become widely accepted. Energy is just really small stuff, moving
fast. Increasingly, the really small stuff is identified, at least in theory as it is too small to be observed directly. The clues, for humans struggling to understand the
world around them, lies in the behavior of small particles under different circumstances. Light is not composed of a singular particle, but dozens of particles, thereby
accounting for much of what humans call the strange behavior of light.
- Rainbows are caused by the various particles responsible for what humans call color, the color of an object being determined by which particle is
overwhelmingly present in the flood of particles striking the eye. Diffraction of light in water laden air following a rain storm results in what humans call a
rainbow, where the eye perceives light particles sorted out by the degree, or angle, of diffraction from one side of the rainbow to the other.
- Auroras, colorful light displays of waving banners across the northern or southern skies, are caused by the susceptibility of the various particles to the
gravitational pull from the Earth. These light displays are visible to humans where the glare of sunlight does not drown them out, as the eye registers the
overwhelming particle nature of the light flood, discarding minor particles that might be present as so much noise.
- Brilliant sunsets and dawns have been assumed by humans to be caused by dust suspended in the air, when of course those dust particles are present during
the day as well and cause no such color variation. The human eye receives in the dim light of dawn or dusk an overwhelming flood of light composed of
particular particles which are more prone to bend toward the gravitational pull of the Earth than other particles. Thus the sunset or dawn is most brilliant at a
point just before or after the full glare of sunlight, when the particle flood is strong but is not mixed in with competing light particles to the point of being
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