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

Does light have a frequency limit?

  1. May 5, 2004 #1

    ShawnD

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Are there any limits (or predicted limits) on what the frequency of light can be? It is possible to have waves with a frequency of 10^3000 Hz? How about 10^-3000?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2004 #2

    TeV

    User Avatar

    1.Yes, there are the limits (theoretical and experimental) of a free photon to be formed and to propagate.
    2.No ,it's not possible to have photon with such a high energy and frequency."Particles" with corresponding energy level would be far in GUT range.Another consideration is limited to elementar quantum of Planck space lenght and vacuum speed of light.Finally there is a distance in "not shielded" universe which ultra high energy EM radiations could travel up to before interaction with relic cosmic radiation photons occurs.
    3.No.Also more than one reason.Just to name one:The universe isn't infinitely "large".

    cheers
     
  4. May 5, 2004 #3
    Not sure, but I think the minimum limit on the wavelength is on the order of planck's constant.. The maximum limit obviously has to do with the size of the universe (and maybe other factors...). The limits on frequency can then be calculated by [itex] \nu = \frac{c}{\lambda} [/itex]

    EDIT: Hmm, seems like TeV beat me to it :smile: . TeV - how do you know the universe isn't in fact infinitly large? Maybe it is (not the observable, but the entrie, or is only the observable size important here?)
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2004
  5. May 5, 2004 #4

    TeV

    User Avatar

    Nothing in physics isn't infinitely large or small (sign of mathematical singularity in physical theory is a sign of sickness in theory).
    I emphasize I'm not a cosmologist.The sense of meaning of the word "large" in my post should be looked for in the context of Einstein's GR.
    Accordingly the universe is finitely old.At present how do you think the universe is old today?Rethorical (contra)question ,without * quantum theory of particles and fields to call in,:"How much time is classicaly needed to produce 1 cycle of 10^-3000 Hz EM radiation?"
    Enjoy :smile:
    ______
    * recognizing spacetime quantization in velocity range<0,c>, it can be shown that there is the lower frequancy limit at which electron/positron can emit EM radiation too.
     
  6. May 5, 2004 #5

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    No there's no known limit:

    Isacc Asimov said the only limits on the frequency (well he said wavelength) of a photon was the size of the universe (mininumum frequency) and the total energy in the unieverse (maximum freqeuncy) but it's clear that in an expanding universe that will expand forever any photon given enough time may have an arbitarily small frequency and that in an infinite universe (which is certainly possible) a photon may have an arbitarily large freqeuency.

    Some have speculated hat the maximum frequency of a photon may be limited by Planck scale physics, but until this physics is known this is little more than speculation.
     
  7. May 5, 2004 #6

    TeV

    User Avatar

    Well,let him just write good sci fi books.If he said that photon hasn't upper limit he knows very little about quantum physics and role of the observer in framework of GR.Even less he might know about modern view of high energy physics as concerns this issue.Be sure photon of 10^100 Hz isn't theoretical possibility for observer at any stage of our universe development.
     
  8. May 5, 2004 #7

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I was merely quoting Asimov, but he is essentially correct, the known limits on photon energies are practical not theoretical.

    I assure you in modern quantum physics there is absolutely no theoretical limit on the maximum and the minimum energies of a photon and in the unievrese there exist valid frames of reference in relativity where the photons coming from your screen have energies of about 10^100 Hz (due to blueshifting, it requires velocities though that I guesitmate at about (1 - 10^-40)c ).

    I'll say it again, at the moment any theoretical limit to the allowable enrgies of photons is speculation.
     
  9. May 5, 2004 #8
    Just a thought, as my mind is reeling from these qm concepts:

    If uncertainty requires that
    [tex]\Delta p_x \Delta x \ge \frac{\hbar}{2}[/tex]
    and if the universe is not infinite, putting a maximum limit on [tex]\Delta x[/tex]
    (I don't know what that limit is, but presumably it's finite)
    doesn't that require that there be some finite minimum momentum, and therefore a corresponding minimum energy, and a corresponding minimum frequency for a photon?
     
  10. May 5, 2004 #9

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    No gnome, because in the uncertainity principle Δpx can have arbitarily small values as Δx can be arbitarily large values.

    edited to add: I should of read your post properly, I see what your saying but I'm not entirely if it &Deltax needs to have a maxima if the unievrse is finite, but it may.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2004
  11. May 5, 2004 #10

    Njorl

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Consider a mundane lightwave of the visible spectrum. Is it not possible to pick a reference frame in which it has an arbitrarily high frequency? What prevents this?

    Njorl
     
  12. May 5, 2004 #11

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Nothing in relativity prevnts you from doing this, in my post before last I gave an guestimate (I estimated this as a conventional cacualtor, even one that can deal with the immensley large and small figures will round them up), for the relative velocity of a refernce frame in which a visible light photon (in our reference frame) appears to have a frequency of 10^100 Hz, my guestimate being about (1 - 10^40)c.
     
  13. May 5, 2004 #12
    Not sure, but doesn't arbitrarily high frequency mean arbitrarily high energy?

    1. Where does "arbitrarily high energy" come from?

    2. What happens when all of the energy in the universe is possessed by a single photon?

    edit: i.e. what happens to "everything else"?
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2004
  14. May 5, 2004 #13

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    That comes to other issues, such as limitations such as the possiblre mechansisms for concentrating all the matter of the unievrse into a single photon, whch brings in problems such as the conservation of momentum, angular momentum etc. (though in an infinite unieverse you don't have to worry about such considertaions).Of course any theoretical way do such a thing would be practcally impossible.
     
  15. May 5, 2004 #14
    Well, it's fun to speculate, but I should really be focusing on Friday's exam. Bye.
     
  16. May 5, 2004 #15
    What happens if the universe happens to be curved in such a way that it has no real edge? Could not then an ultra-long wavelength exist? I'd wager it'd be very unlikely.

    The energy would get so vanishingly small that quantum uncertainty would start to affect it methinks.
     
  17. May 6, 2004 #16

    TeV

    User Avatar

    Remember what your Assimov said,and calculate the energy of single photon with frequeny 10^100 Hz.Than calculate just for comparation the same [tex]E=mc^2[/tex] for the Milky way galaxy when you find estimate for m of the galaxy.
    In answer to qustion how about change of refference frame I answer that SR isn't preceise and GR is must used in such cases.The photon of extremly high energy induces gravitationa fields in its neighborhood which aren't insignifican't any more and one have to deal with mix of relativistic Dopler wavelenght shifts and Gravitational shifts.
    From the aspect of quantum physics or even better high energy physic one can present specualtion on reaction of positron electron anihilation in super high energy range which is unknown what would happen.The authority-much more eminent is S.Hawking (oh too bad he doesn't write sci fi books) who gave some speculation what could be expected (but don't take me for words it was him for sure).
     
  18. May 6, 2004 #17

    ShawnD

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    So basically there is no limit, thanks.
     
  19. May 6, 2004 #18

    TeV

    User Avatar

    Just on the contrary ,I'm saying there must be.In other words,it is not just nonsense to talk about 10^3000 Hz photon,but there's no sense even to talk about 10^100 Hz photon after the Planck time of Big Bang .The upper limit is lower than that . Not just becouse of problematic universe energy resources issues to achieve that,but becouse of ultrahigh energy physics unknown land where quantum field theory and gravity are in the mix.
    I can give many examples related to this problem.
    Consider the reaction of classical electron-positron anhilation where they travel in oposite directions with same antiparallel velocities (the simple case):[tex]e^+e^-\rightarrow\gamma\gamma[/tex]
    At normal energy levels this reaction is valid.But now,Hawking asked himself what would be if electron and positron are given velocities very very very close to the speed of light that reaction is at say 10^50 eV?Is the reaction still valid?What should be expected?
     
  20. May 6, 2004 #19

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    As I said before there is still no known theroretical barrier, any barrier is just the result of speculation on the nature of Planck scale physics.

    Yes 10^100 Hz is a ridculously high energy to havefor a photon, but there's still no theoretical barrier preventing a photon having such energies which is the point I'm making.

    Yes I was aware that general relativity does come into play, but by having the phtoon local to the obsever, you wouldn't have to worry about the curvature of spacetime.

    Two gamma rays is usually the low energy (as opposed to high energy) example of electron-positron anhilation anyway, though while being untypical at high energies I don't think there's any known mechanism to exclude them as products.
     
  21. May 6, 2004 #20

    jcsd

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    btw, as I said before, I was just quoting Asimov, not citing him.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Does light have a frequency limit?
  1. Does Light Have Mass? (Replies: 53)

  2. Does light have mass? (Replies: 11)

  3. Does light have a size (Replies: 4)

Loading...