Saturday, June 17, 2006

Waves by Louis Evan Palmer

The message
is not the medium

It's a safe bet that most people don't really know what a wave is.

Some definitions of waves are quite certain when they talk about distortions propagated through a medium. These expositions then go on to describe how the distortion agitates the medium and this passes to the nearby part of the medium and so on. The medium itself does not travel - only the distortion - which is often called the vibration or oscillation.

But then you might ask - what about light waves? This will lead you into the realm of photons and electromagnetic radiation. But now we're told that a medium is not required. It is referred to as a self-propagating wave. Since there is no medium, we must presume that the energy itself is traveling but in this undulating manner. On top of that, it seems to be acting like it is composed of particles.

It is a wonderful maze we're in now. Some advise that waves are not the correct focus, that we should be focusing on fields - the mathematical variety. They and their matrices and vectors and different types of theoretical spaces contain the waves and their associated phenomena.

It does seem significant whether a wave propagates through a medium or not. Is it possible that waves that progagate through a medium are substantively different from waves that propagate through a vacuum; or, is there some type of medium through which the electromagnetic radiation propagates?

This will drag us into the ether debate which was mainstream a long time ago but is now no longer accepted as an explanation.

So we're back to - a wave is a particle, is a wave, is both. A wave propagates through a medium or is self-propagating. A wave exists only as part of a field. Waves are everywhere and everything.

The only safe prediction is that we will have a different view of waves in ten years - probably dramatically different.

Copyright Louis Evan Palmer
Waves, The Way It Can Be, Louis Evan Palmer,


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