Is Light Matter?

  1. Is light a physical thing, in other words, is it matter?
  2. jcsd
  3. Light is another name for electromagnetic radiation, which is the transmission of energy. It is energy. Einstein's equation shows that energy and matter are the same concept, so in a way, it is.
  4. Light is a flow of a huge number of particles - photons. Photons have zero mass, but this doesn't make them any "less" matter than electrons or protons.

  5. Claude Bile

    Claude Bile 1,479
    Science Advisor

    E = mc^2 is the equivalence of mass and energy, not matter and energy.

    Matter is traditionally regarded as stuff with rest mass, i.e. protons, neutrons, electrons and so forth, and is distinct from inertial mass.

  6. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,554
    Gold Member

    In fact, it does.

    Light is not matter. Light is energy. This is not a point of debate.
  7. I agree, but I think there are plenty who will debate this (I hope). Not being smart, just trying to learn,
  8. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,554
    Gold Member

    You agree, but you're looking for debate? Are you just looking to stir a pot or something?

    Really. There's no debate. It's not open to interpretation.
  9. But such a statement does not distinguish it from matter. Nonetheless, distinction from radiation is a practical meaning for modern use of the term "matter".

    On the other hand, language is fluid: "Space-time tells matter how to move".
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2007
  10. My purpose is not to stir. There are many people who argue that light is matter, and I would like to learn what their argument is and how credible it is. One of the hardest things with learning modern science is that there seems to be so many conflicting conclusions, it's hard to know which to believe.
  11. Swerdna, are you sure those people weren't merely asserting that light has (relativistic) mass?
  12. Matter to me is localized energy. In this instance light is matter. Thats my take anyway.
  13. If they are, they aren’t making that point clear. Does that light has “relativistic mass” mean it is matter?
  14. This argument has been put to me . . .

    If E = mc^2, and light = E, then light = mc^2. Therefore light is matter.

    Given, as Claude Bile stated (post #4), “E = mc^2 is the equivalence of mass and energy, not matter and energy”, I guess they are saying that because light has relativistic mass it is matter.
  15. Matter contains energy, but how does that make energy matter? A sponge can contain water, but that doesn't make the sponge water.
  16. While we are on the topic. Does this prove that light cannot have mass?:

  17. ZapperZ

    ZapperZ 30,743
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Can you point out who "these people" are? I mean, if you're referring to crackpots who barely know physics, then we're wasting out time here, aren't we?

    There is a FAQ in here that addresses the misuse of that Einstein equation. You may want to start with that. After you've done that, then maybe you should then proceed with defining what you mean by "matter". Only after you do these two, then maybe we can use that criteria of what "matter" is to see if light has such a property. I think this is the only sensible way to approach such a thing, using valid definitions and a clear understanding of what we are talking about. The way this thread has proceeded appears to be more of a "make it up as I go along" type.

  18. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,554
    Gold Member

    Algebraically, this is what you've said:
    A = Matter
    B = Energy
    c = localized (a modifier)

    Your argument is
    Since A = cB, therefore B=A. (Where did the c go?)

    Because matter is localized energy does not make light matter. Not the least reason of which is because light is not localized; it moves at c. And If it didn't, it wouldn't be light.
  19. Thats exactly what it makes it .... if true.
    Didn't say that light does not move at C, only that if it is localized, it can take on the characteristics of matter. A solor sail for instance one could consider as a situation where light is very briefly localized, by which light takes on a characteristic of mass by which a sail can be pushed.

    Light could be said to move in a straight line, but what if it follows an orbital pattern. I.E. localization.
  20. DaveC426913

    DaveC426913 16,554
    Gold Member

    No. It does not. This claim holds no water.

    One can "consider" all one wants. One can consider faeries, but that doesn't make them exist.

    You are making up definitions as you go. This has nothing to do with reality. Science is not a form of poetry.

    The OP's question has been answered. Further speculation merely degrades the quality of this thread for future readers.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2007
  21. Mathematically speaking, c is a constant, however, it is possible for light to be slowed down in a Bose-Einstein condensate.

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