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The massless universe


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So I've been running a lot recently.  And running causes the mind to wander, and wonder.  Here are some wanderings:

 

Are all quantum observers required to be massive?

Can something without mass, cause or contribute to waveform collapse of an another observable?

Must all massless things in the universe move at the speed of light, relative to the massive things?

Must all things that move in the universe at the speed of light be massless?

Do all massive things move at the same speed relative to a massless thing?

Do all massive things need space?

Do any massless things need space?

Do all massive things experience entropy?

Do massless things experience entropy?

Does time matter to massless things?

Do massless things experience spacetime ?  

Does a massless universe  require spacetime?

How many dimensions does a massless thing need?  EG, a photon has property of wavelength and a frequency, so at least 2 dimensions.  Could its "movement" through spacetime be a property of spacetime rather than of itself?  That is, if it didn't have the property of c relative to massive things, because massive things didn't exist, would it still have the property of c?

That's many questions to roughly the same thoughts that were bugging me as I was running.  Ill be running again tomorrow!

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16 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Are all quantum observers required to be massive?

An observation, in quantum theory, is just an interaction. Photons interact ("observe") and are massless.

17 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Can something without mass, cause or contribute to waveform collapse of an another observable?

Yes. A photon could interact with something.

17 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Must all massless things in the universe move at the speed of light, relative to the massive things?

Must all things that move in the universe at the speed of light be massless?

Yes and yes.

18 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Do all massive things move at the same speed relative to a massless thing?

That doesn't really make sense that way round.

All massless things travel at the same speed for all (massive) observers, whatever the speed of the observer. Therefore there is no speed that is "relative to the speed of light".

20 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Do all massive things need space?

Do any massless things need space?

No. Needing space is a characteristic of fermions (which all have mass). Bosons can all occupy the same space (they can overlap or pass through one another). And there are bosons with mass.

But all massless things are (I think) bosons, and so no't need space.

(Assuming that is what you mean by "need space"; or maybe they just need to get away from it all for a while!)

22 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Do all massive things experience entropy?

Do massless things experience entropy?

I think entropy only applies to systems, which probably always have mass. But I'm not going to attempt to answer this!

24 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Does time matter to massless things?

Do massless things experience spacetime ?  

It is often said that photons, for example, don't experience time because as you get closer and closer to the speed of light, time dilation increases and it would seem logical to say that it becomes infinite for photons (ie. that no time passes for them).

But, mathematically, that is wrong because there is no valid frame of reference for something travelling at the speed of light. If you try and do the related math you end up dividing by zero.

And what does it mean for a photon to "experience time" anyway? They are unchanging so it makes no difference.

29 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Does a massless universe  require spacetime?

I would say that a universe requires spacetime because without that it would be zero-size and exist for zero time; in other words it wouldn't exist.

But, using the math of GR, you can define a universe with no mass or energy in it; just spacetime. These "vacuum solutions" to the Einstein Field Equations are useful for exploring aspects of the theory.

32 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

How many dimensions does a massless thing need?  EG, a photon has property of wavelength and a frequency, so at least 2 dimensions. 

Wavelength and frequency are not independent, so they would only be one dimension (if you can count them as that, which you may be able to).

33 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Could its "movement" through spacetime be a property of spacetime rather than of itself?  That is, if it didn't have the property of c relative to massive things, because massive things didn't exist, would it still have the property of c?

Interesting question...

3 minutes ago, Sensei said:

Two or more objects in the same frame of reference appear motionless to each other.

And that's another good reason why a photon does not have a valid frame of reference: two photons moving in the same direction should be in the same frame of reference, because they are both moving at c. But every observer must see a photon moving at c so both photons would see the other one moving at c and so they cannot be in the same frame of reference. The contradiction arises from trying to consider the speed of light as a valid frame of reference.

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2 hours ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Do all massive things experience entropy?

Do massless things experience entropy?

I don't know exactly what you mean with 'experience.' Systems of both massive or massless particles contain entropy, a black hole contains entropy of a very different kind, and even for one quantum particle entropy can be defined in terms of its wave function. Entropy, at the most fundamental level, is defined when the distinctions among different dynamical states are lost. Entropy is the opposite of information.

The total entropy of the visible universe in cosmology approximately equals the number of photons, about 10^90. A gas of photons contains entropy. So I suppose the answer to both questions is yes.

I've just answered the one that Strange passed on, but he was spot on when he said it's about 'systems.'

Edited by joigus
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13 hours ago, joigus said:

I don't know exactly what you mean with 'experience.'

Well let's see.  From what I understand,  EM radiation is affected by curvature. So in this sense, massless EM radiation experiences spacetime.  But is it possible it is only affected by how it is observed by massive things?  That is, although it is massless, it has properties that "only belong" in the massive universe.  For example, its velocity is a constant determined by local curvature in the massive universe, but if it is not a valid frame of reference in itself then velocity is an invalid property of anything existing in the massless universe.  So velocity is a property that only "makes sense" or "takes on a value" in the massive universe. So while EM radiation seems to effect a change in velocity due to curvature, it's not actually a property belonging to the radiation, and therefore no "experience".

Now consider its wavelength.    If space, volume, distance, length and time are all part of the same continuum, then is waveLENGTH a massive property too?   What properties of a photon actually define what it is in its own universe?   Lets say there is a "red" wavelength photon and a "blue" wavelength photon, both with the massive property of c.  If we removed spacetime physics, then c would not make sense, and so would "red" and "blue".  So what is there left to differentiate the two photons?  What is left of the universe without space time?  There must be SOMETHING left!

16 hours ago, Strange said:

And what does it mean for a photon to "experience time" anyway? They are unchanging so it makes no difference.

This "experience" of time I'm referring to is really about leading to whether the existence of time (and spacetime) is a prerequisite for masslessness.

15 hours ago, Strange said:

No. Needing space is a characteristic of fermions (which all have mass). Bosons can all occupy the same space (they can overlap or pass through one another). And there are bosons with mass.

If two bosons have values in the higgs field and then occupy the same quantum state of position, how do they retain their original higgs values when they separate?

What relevance or significance does space, position and location have for bosons?

15 hours ago, Strange said:

But all massless things are (I think) bosons, and so no't need space.

So if we removed all massive things from universe, do the physics of spacetime have any relevance?

If we removed or changed the physics of spacetime, would that affect the nature of any massless things?

16 hours ago, Strange said:

I would say that a universe requires spacetime because without that it would be zero-size and exist for zero time; in other words it wouldn't exist.

I would argue, a universe absent of spacetime requires that anything that might exist within it may have a value for size or for time but that such values are redundant and just meaningless information.  If the presence of spacetime gives meaning to space and time values, then the absence of spacetime removes that meaning.  Zero size and zero time has meaning and meaning requires presence.

16 hours ago, Strange said:

But, using the math of GR, you can define a universe with no mass or energy in it; just spacetime. These "vacuum solutions" to the Einstein Field Equations are useful for exploring aspects of the theory.

I think perhaps I should have started this thread in the quantum fields topic.    GR describes spacetime and gravity through relationships between how things interact on a macro scale.   I wanted to explore how the universe presents to massless things.

Is spacetime a prerequisite for massive or massless things to exist?

Do massless things have any non-spacetime properties?

Do massive bosons have a gravitation effect?

If spacetime is a continuum and gravity curves spacetime, why is spacetimegravity not a continuum?

 

 

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31 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Well let's see.  From what I understand,  EM radiation is affected by curvature. So in this sense, massless EM radiation experiences spacetime.  [...]

Now consider its wavelength.    If space, volume, distance, length and time are all part of the same continuum, then is waveLENGTH a massive property too?   What properties of a photon actually define what it is in its own universe?   Lets say there is a "red" wavelength photon and a "blue" wavelength photon, both with the massive property of c.  If we removed spacetime physics, then c would not make sense, and so would "red" and "blue".  So what is there left to differentiate the two photons?  What is left of the universe without space time?  There must be SOMETHING left!

OK, but you're drifting away from entropy.

I mean, electrons, photons or pi mesons can 'experience' curvature (and there I do accept your term,) but not entropy, as entropy is a property of your level of description. It's to do with lost information, and particles don't lose any information AFAIK. Or the concept of them 'experiencing loss of information' doesn't seem a reasonable physical concept. 

What entropy growth (or information loss) has to do with is a quite abstract but useful concept that is called 'volume of phase space.' It is a measure of the amount of information that a physical system contains just because of the fact of being in a certain dynamical state. This 'volume of phase space' is neither lost nor gained; it's constant. Just constant. Entropy is the part that is hidden to my description.

We could say,

\[S=\textrm{constant}\]

This is sometimes called 'microscopic entropy' and its conservation is the most fundamental physical principle there is. Now, it just so happens that many things go on without us knowing about it. Only because there is a fiduciary value of a quantity that stays constant and I can associate with the information content of a system, can I speak about loss of information. Otherwise it wouldn't make any sense.

I hope that helps to clarify the situation as to the entropy. It's a really confusing concept, and the great mathematician John V Neumann once said that physicists don't know what entropy really is. No longer the situation, I think.

Edited by joigus
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2 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

This "experience" of time I'm referring to is really about leading to whether the existence of time (and spacetime) is a prerequisite for masslessness.

I think when you get to the point of imagining a model without time, or worse without space, then it becomes hard to give realistic answers. However, mass is not defined in terms of time or length. It is an independent quantity unlike, for example, force which is defined in terms of mass, length and time. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimensional_analysis

6 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

If two bosons have values in the higgs field and then occupy the same quantum state of position, how do they retain their original higgs values when they separate?

What does "values in the higgs field" mean? The Higgs mechanism is responsible for the mass of particles, including those bosons that have mass.

7 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

What relevance or significance does space, position and location have for bosons?

Well, their position can be defined. In as much as the position of any quantum particle can be defined; i.e. when it s measured.

8 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

So if we removed all massive things from universe, do the physics of spacetime have any relevance?

Yes. Models of spacetime with no mass are useful for understanding GR.

8 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

If we removed or changed the physics of spacetime, would that affect the nature of any massless things?

Probably. One definition of mass is "the curvature it causes in spacetime". If you change that then perhaps you are changing the meaning or effect of mass. But, again, once you start departing from the physics we know then any answers are just guesses.

10 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Is spacetime a prerequisite for massive or massless things to exist?

I would say the existence of space is a requirement for anything to exist.

11 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Do massless things have any non-spacetime properties?

Momentum. Energy. Color (in the case of gluons).

Interestingly, there are no massless particles with charge. I don't know if there is an explanation for that.

13 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

Do massive bosons have a gravitation effect?

Yes. So do massless ones because they have energy. (Mass does not appear in the equations for gravity; only energy.)

13 minutes ago, AbstractDreamer said:

If spacetime is a continuum and gravity curves spacetime, why is spacetimegravity not a continuum?

Gravity does not curve spacetime, energy does. Gravity is just how we perceive the curvature.

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1 hour ago, joigus said:

then is waveLENGTH a massive property too? 

When a particle is massive, wavelength has to do with mass by De Broglie's relation,

\[p=mv=\frac{h}{\lambda}\]

p is called 'momentum.' m is the particle's mass, v is the particle's velocity, \lambda is the wavelength and h is Planck's constant.

For photons though, it's also,

\[p=\frac{h}{\lambda}\]

But expressing p as mv is no longer valid. So the photon's wavelength has nothing to do with its mass.

Edited by joigus
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  • 6 months later...

Hi All,

I've had similar thoughts to @AbstractDreamer - but my thoughts relate to the Big Bang and the physics at the initial moments of the Universe.

The problem is that the laws of Physics break down at or near the singularity.  But: and here is the crux of it all - what if the singularity did not exist?  What if the Universe formed as pure energy and no mass?  This is perfectly possible.  If the Universe was pure energy, then the problem of gravity simply goes away and there is no singularity, there is no spacetime.  The Universe simply 'condenses' from energy to matter outside the 'event horizon' and from then on the expansion looks exactly like the Big Bang predicts.  Any matter that condenses inside the 'event horizon' is simply outside the bounds of our Universe and is not observable.

Is it possible for the Universe to form as pure energy?  Yes I think so. There are plenty of massless elementary particles and Quantum theory has several mechanisms where these can interact and form the Quarks & Hadrons that form our observable universe - basically 'condensing' from pure energy to matter that we presently see.

Thoughts?

 

Here are more thoughts:

1. If all the initial energy in the universe condensed into matter, then there will be no energy left for expansion and the Universe will very quickly end in a big crunch.  So the ratio of the energy that condenses into matter is critical to the rate of expansion/contraction of the Universe and hence its ultimate age.

2. The amount of energy the Universe starts with does not matter (no pun intended).  If the Universe started off with a lot more energy then more matter will condense, but at the same time there will be more energy to expand the Universe and it will look pretty much the same as it does now as long as the ratio is the same.

 

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6 hours ago, rajivdx said:

But: and here is the crux of it all - what if the singularity did not exist?

The appearance of a singularity in a model of physics generally means that the model has broken down because it has been extend beyond its domain of applicability. It does not mean that the model actually predicts a physical singularity to occur. In that sense, singularities - whether gravitational or at the BB - (almost) certainly are not actual, physical objects; they are more like flags saying “we don’t know yet what happens here”.

6 hours ago, rajivdx said:

Is it possible for the Universe to form as pure energy?

Mass as a property of elementary particles only appeared at and after electroweak symmetry breaking (~10^-35s) when the Higgs mechanism kicks in; prior to that, all particles would have been massless. So yes, the very early universe contained only various forms of energy - which, however, still has a gravitational effect of course.

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On 5/14/2020 at 4:31 PM, AbstractDreamer said:

Does a massless universe  require spacetime?

This is a variation of a variation of Mach's Principle https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mach's_principle

"Mach7: If you take away all matter, there is no more space."

 

I think that if time and distance are emergent properties of the universe then nothing requires spacetime, because everything could be described in terms of whatever they're emergent from. Eg. maybe causal connections could be described using topology without geometry. In that case, c is a property of the relationship between distance and time, something describing how things are connected in the underlying universe and emerging as a speed in our possibly emergent observations and measurements of that universe.

As an example or analogy, consider the emergent 3d space depicted by a 2d hologram. The observable depths and distances of that 3d space are not needed to describe the hologram completely.

Edited by md65536
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I don't follow this, md; maybe you can elaborate;
Mach's principle states that the global distribution of mass in the universe, determines the local properties of inertia.
So, I'm not sure what the connection is.

Further, prior to the last symmetry break where fermions and some leptons bosons acquired mass ( see Swansont's post above ), the Strong ( color ), Electroweak, and most importantly, Gravity, were distinct interactions. And a distinct Gravity implies space-time.
IOW, mass is not required for space-time.

Edited by MigL
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43 minutes ago, md65536 said:

"Mach7: If you take away all matter, there is no more space."

This is evidently not true, since the very mechanism that creates the property of mass (the Higgs mechanism and spontaneous symmetry breaking) already presupposes the existence of at least a Minkowski background spacetime prior to said process; without this, there would be no universe as we know it today.

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11 hours ago, MigL said:

I don't follow this, md; maybe you can elaborate;
Mach's principle states that the global distribution of mass in the universe, determines the local properties of inertia.
So, I'm not sure what the connection is.

I just quoted the wiki page. I can't explain other than with another quote from the page: "But because the principle is so vague, many distinct statements can be (and have been) made that would qualify as a Mach principle, and some of these are false."

Definitely Mach's principle doesn't answer the questions here. I see it more as philosophical in that it provides questions that can't be answered, or at least aren't settled by science.

10 hours ago, Markus Hanke said:

This is evidently not true, since the very mechanism that creates the property of mass (the Higgs mechanism and spontaneous symmetry breaking) already presupposes the existence of at least a Minkowski background spacetime prior to said process; without this, there would be no universe as we know it today.

I disagree that there's evidence of what would be observed if all matter was taken away, as far as I know no one has performed such an experiment! The evidence is based on extrapolation from what we currently observe. Does the Higgs mechanism depend on other fundamental constants or measurements?

I think to settle this, and to answer OP's questions about a massless universe etc, you'd first have to know if and how the fundamental constants etc. would change in such a case. You'd have to settle Mach's principle in general. I think Mach7 is not true based on current evidence, best current theoretical models, and the assumption that some specific aspects of Mach's principle are not true.

Edited by md65536
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13 hours ago, md65536 said:

Does the Higgs mechanism depend on other fundamental constants or measurements?

The mechanism is one of spontaneous symmetry breaking, so it would depend on whatever parameters appear in the Lagrangian. In this specific case it would be the speed of light, Planck’s constant, as well as the coupling constants between the various fields.

13 hours ago, md65536 said:

you'd first have to know if and how the fundamental constants etc. would change in such a case

The Higgs mechanism has no effect on the value of fundamental constants (other than ones related to the masses of particles of cause, which aren’t really ‘fundamental’). It only gives rise to some new coupling constants within the Lagrangian, since after the event you end up with more fields than you started off with.

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  • 1 month later...

Massless things move through Higgs field without resistance I.e. at speed of light and they by definition do not experience time or distance. You ask whether an observer needs to have mass. An observation means a mechanism for recording a delta in an event. If you don’t experience time then by definition you cannot be an apparatus capable of observing a delta. Sorry I’m not a scientists, just common sense application answer and happy to be challenged:)

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On 5/16/2020 at 3:53 AM, AbstractDreamer said:

Well let's see.  From what I understand,  EM radiation is affected by curvature. So in this sense, massless EM radiation experiences spacetime. 

Light/photons or EM radiation follow geodesics in spacetime.

On 5/16/2020 at 3:53 AM, AbstractDreamer said:

If spacetime is a continuum and gravity curves spacetime, why is spacetimegravity not a continuum?

What we feel as gravity, is simply spacetime geometry in the presence of mass/energy.

The following may answer some of your other questions...https://einstein.stanford.edu/content/relativity/a11332.html#:~:text=Can space exist by itself,No.&text=no arena in which matter,by matter%2C energy and gravity. 

Special & General Relativity Questions and Answers

Can space exist by itself without matter or energy around?

No. Experiments continue to show that there is no 'space' that stands apart from space-time itself...no arena in which matter, energy and gravity operate which is not affected by matter, energy and gravity. General relativity tells us that what we call space is just another feature of the gravitational field of the universe, so space and space-time can and do not exist apart from the matter and energy that creates the gravitational field. This is not speculation, but sound observation.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

I was confused by the seemingly contradictory highlighted part [by me] and E-Mailed the author to clarifiy...Sten Odenwald. He E-Mailed back that the underlined/highlighted part was a typographical error .

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16 hours ago, Antti_U said:

at speed of light and they by definition do not experience time or distance

You are correct in the sense that there is no physical clock or ruler that could co-move along with a massless object - which is to say such objects do not have a valid rest frame. Nonetheless, the world line of a massless particle in spacetime does have a well-defined length, you just need to parametrise it using something other than proper time (which is zero by definition); so there is still a meaningful notion of massless particles travelling a certain distance in a certain amount of time, it just needs to be defined in a consistent way.

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