Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Does a photon have "resting" mass?

  1. Feb 8, 2015 #1
    if so, what is that and how is resting mass different than just mass?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 9, 2015 #2

    Orodruin

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    The photon mass is zero and it is not very correct to talk about a photon rest mass as they cannot be at rest. For massive particles, rest mass is what physicists normally refer to when they say "mass". The term "relativistic mass" is not used much and you will have a hard time finding a physicist who refers to it as just "mass".
     
  4. Feb 9, 2015 #3
    Ok, thank you. I was just confused I had because I had always been told they had no mass at all (because they don't interact with the Higgs fields right?) so it didn't make sense to me as to why they would have resting mass
     
  5. Feb 9, 2015 #4

    ChrisVer

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In almost all the cases, the photons are massless.. Only under certain conditions, you can give them an effective mass.
    They are massless (rest mass =0 ) because they don't interact with Higgs, but ... we knew before Higgs that they should be massless, for many reasons- one of which is that they travel at [itex]c[/itex], or that Coulomb's law make the force have infinite range, etc...
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2015
  6. Feb 9, 2015 #5

    jtbell

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Please, in English, we say "rest mass", not "resting mass."
     
  7. Nov 21, 2015 #6
    Since photons have zero rest mass, the gravitational lensing effect must prove the existence of the photon's effective mass, when traveling at c.
     
  8. Nov 21, 2015 #7

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    It does not, no matter what "effective mass" is supposed to mean. The photons simply follow curved spacetime, as all other objects.
     
  9. Nov 21, 2015 #8
    Ah. Thanks.
     
  10. Nov 21, 2015 #9

    strangerep

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Heh,... and I really wish we would always say "invariant mass" instead of "rest mass". :oldwink::oldbiggrin:
     
  11. Nov 22, 2015 #10

    mfb

    User Avatar
    2016 Award

    Staff: Mentor

    Just say "mass" as nearly all physicists do.

    If the system is not a single particle (or decay products of a single particle), "invariant mass" is clearer, but not necessary.
     
  12. Nov 29, 2015 #11

    vanhees71

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2016 Award

    Well, in the forum I talk about "invariant mass". In daily life, I just say mass, because nobody in my environment would misunderstand it to be some strange old-fashioned quantity known as the "relativistic mass" ;-)).
     
  13. Dec 1, 2015 #12
    Photon has no rest mass. In solid material where you have spontaneous breaking of phase symmetry (Anderson-Higgs phenomenon, condensed matter version of Higgs mechanism), it would acquire a mass. In which case it becomes dispersive and group velocity would be different from c.

    I am guessing the 'mass' you are referring to is possibly the relativistic mass. It is related to energy, which is not an invariant quantity. General relativistic gravitation is related to the energy-momentum density; in that sense, for a photon gas, there would be frame involving energy density and pressure and this energy density might have an effective gravitating mass density (you still have to take the gravitational effect of pressure relativistically though).
     
  14. Dec 5, 2015 #13

    vanhees71

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    2016 Award

    As stated before in relativistic theory for decades one uses the word mass only for "invariant mass". Only very rarely you find proponents of the old-fashioned idea of "relativistic mass", which were invented in the very early days of relativity (they even had two kindes of "relativistic mass", a transverse and longitudinal one). In my opinion, this notions were obsolete with Minkowski's famous talk on the mathematical structure of (special) relativistic spacetime.

    The invariant mass of a free photon is 0. In a medium you can define the retarded photon propagator and a spectral function from it (in thermal equilibrium it's either the analytic continuation of the in-medium Matsubara propagator to real time or equivalently the corresponding matrix element of the Schwinger-Keldysh contour propagator). If this spectral function is sharply peaked enough, you can use a quasi-particle description and define an invariant mass of the photon through the corresponding dispersion relation, otherwise this doesn't make sense und you have to use the broad spectral distribution to describe the corresponding plasmon excitations.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Does a photon have "resting" mass?
  1. Delta++ rest mass (Replies: 6)

Loading...