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If matter were to travel the speed of light, would it convert to

  1. Sep 17, 2008 #1
    If matter were to travel the speed of light, would it convert to energy?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2008 #2


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    Re: E=mc^2

    The meaning of E=mc^2 is that matter, even standing perfectly still, has energy - and can be converted to other forms of energy in processes like nuclear fission.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2008
  4. Sep 17, 2008 #3
    Re: E=mc^2

    Yes. What atyy is basically saying here is that since Einstein's publication of his most known formula, the way to interpret the world is that matter and energy are two faces of the same coin. Matter is a form of condensed energy, basically.

    So at all times, matter is susceptible to be converted to energy. Think atomic bombs, for example. Now, the speed of light is something else. It acts as a kind of ultimate speed limit to the universe. There is no matter that can travel at, or faster than the speed of light. Only massless particles can travel at the speed of light.

    If you tried to push a particle enough that it reached the speed of light, you would never manage to make it, because the closer the particle would get to the speed of light, the heavier it would get!(the reason for this involves a relativistic understanding of Time, which is better discussed in the relativity subforums)

    And since the Large Hadron Collider is in the news lately, this is exactly what goes on in that 27km tunnel. Electromagnets push on groups of protons that fly in opposite directions the tunnel, thus giving them kinetic energy. The closer to the speed of light these protons get, the heavier they get due to all that accumulated energy. When they collide, that accumulated energy needs to go somewhere, so it "condenses" into matter; heavy particles. The higher the speed, the higher the energy of the particles. The higher the energy, the more massive the particles created are! (this is where the w and z bosons come from, which are 100 times more massive than a single proton, and why it was necessary to build the LHC to reach higher energies so that the elusive Higgs boson can be created/observed)
  5. Sep 19, 2008 #4
    Re: E=mc^2

    not trying to hijack this thread but Rhannmah's response made me question something. so nothing can travel faster than the speed of light in a vacuum, but in a different medium such as water (ie: Cerenkov radiation) it is possible.

    so how is it possible for the speed of light to change in a different medium?
    so when photons try to move at their universally constant rate, c, what is it in different mediums that slow them down? i see that the speed of light, in water lose 1/4 of their speed
    if photons are massless then how could any particle that has mass can ever exceed the massless particles speed? or does it have to do with the density of the medium, but if it has to do with the density or mass of the medium then would that not have the same, if not greater, effect on a particle with mass having to encounter the same resistance thus balancing it out?

    i'm a newb, long time reader, first time poster :)
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2008
  6. Sep 19, 2008 #5


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    Re: E=mc^2

    You may want to start by reading the FAQ in the General Physics forum.

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