Remember the “Powers of 10” video from 1977? Perhaps this visualization needs to be updated, eh. A 21st century version?

Among others, modern cosmology depends on the work of **Max Planck**. He was a seminal figure in changing our view of the world and universe. Just look at the **List of things named after Max Planck**.

Planck space (spacetime below the Planck scale) is preposterous. Trans-Planckian land! (Homage to **Flatland**.) Only the math offers any connection to that realm [1]. I sometimes meditate on **vacuum fluctuations** and **virtual particles** (and **black hole evaporation**).

I find it interesting (although not necessarily compelling) to read about the religious views of notable figures like Planck.

Summarize Planck’s religious views here [TBS].

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

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[1] And I recall that Feynman said something about when the math “spits out” infinities, nature is telling us something important, that something more interesting is going on.

3-16-2017I am revisiting and rethinking my original comment below regarding the photon (light). In particular, after studying Sean Carroll’s comment regarding the Higgs boson: “The reason why the Higgs boson is a concept that’s hard to grasp is that you need to stop thinking of the world as particles.” It’s all about fields: matter from fields. QFT. So, terms likeparticleandpathlimit a deeper, more useful description. So, I’m reviewing the Huygens–Fresnel principle, Fermat’s principle,the principle of least action, and other topics to understand how we see awaveof light as a particle moving in a straight line. That is, reconciling the macroscopic and microscopic (QFT) views: how EM ripples (“going every which way”) are observed as matter particles (photons) andwave interferenceis experienced as linear propagation from a source — alight ray.2-6-2014Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physical_constants

Topical Questions: So, why is the speed of light finite? c-zero, that is. Why is that also the speed limit for all energy, matter, gravity, and information in the universe? Why that particular value? Why only for so-called massless particles?

Well, the more general question is why are there physical constants? The speed of light is just one of those.

What is energy? What is space? There are physical constants that apply to each, that in a sense define each.

What may be more interesting is which physical constants are considered (over time) to reflect an actual physical reality, a real physical significance. Versus a mathematical artifact.

In particular, consider universal physical constants. The difference between these and “rationalized” measurement-system constants is interesting, because some can be defined in terms of the other. The history of classical and modern physics is evident in these constants. For example, parameters used in classical and semiclassical electromagnetic theory and quantum mechanics. Sort of an archeology of physics.

Perhaps photonic speed is determined by properties of space, at the Planck level. Or their interaction. Such interaction or mechanism being hidden (unobservable). Maybe classical physics hints at such an explanation.

The speed of light can be calculated from Maxwell’s Equations. c-zero equals 1 over the square root of mu-zero times epsilon-zero. Mu is the electric constant; epsilon the magnetic constant. These two parameters have an interesting history, evident in various names and as part of coefficients of proportionality.

The electric constant: vacuum permittivity, permittivity of free space — “an ideal, (baseline) physical constant, which is the value of the absolute (not relative) dielectric permittivity of classical vacuum.” Dielectric is the property of transmitting electric force without conduction; permittivity is the ability of a substance to store electrical energy in an electric field. Based on the classical, empirical relationship of the force between two charged balls or two point-like electric charges in free space separated by a given distance.

The magnetic constant: vacuum permeability, permeability of free space — “an ideal, (baseline) physical constant, which is the value of magnetic permeability in a classical vacuum.” Based on the classical, empirical relationship of the force between two thin, straight, stationary, parallel wires, a given distance apart in free space, in each of which a given current flows.

One of the interesting aspects of photons is that their speed is independent of their frequency, wavelength, and energy. Emission is not like throwing a ball with more or less force, resulting in different velocities.

As wave-like, a photon’s unlimited range can be explained as the self-propagation of electric and magnetic fields — an endless onward dance, along a path in free space. The so-called permittivity and permeability of space (in QED, relative permittivity and relative permeability and temporal transients of virtual particles) limiting speed but not range. Range not being limited because Planck level interactions (on the order of 10^-35 meters) are absent, negligible or self-canceling.

Regarding a photon’s range and general linearity of motion, does Newton’s First Law of Motion apply? In so-called free space. For particles at the subatomic level? Despite quantum mechanics’ redefinition of the classical vacuum or “void.” In other words, “In the absence of net forces, a moving object tends to move along a straight line path indefinitely.”

Perhaps constant in-phase oscillation perpendicular to the (emitted) direction of travel, as well as lack of Plank level interaction, accounts for a photon’s general linearity of motion, except where space curves. [Discuss unified field theory?]

Feynman evidently considered photons more particle-like than wave-like [citation]. So, as a particle in free space — quantum vacuum, perhaps there are similar explanations for a photon’s velocity and range.

Reference: “There’s a Brand-New Kilogram, And It’s Based on Quantum Physics.”

So, Planck’s constant even is being used to redefine standard measures.

• YouTube > Fermilab > Don Lincoln > “20 Subatomic Stories: Is the Planck length really the smallest?” (Aug 19, 2020)

Description: A reasonable question of physics is if there is a smallest possible size and shortest duration and some scientists have claimed that there is and they are called the Planck length and Planck time. In this episode of Subatomic Stories, Fermilab’s Dr. Don Lincoln explains the truth of the Planck constants. It’s not what you think.History of so-called “natural units” … vs. smallest possible units … limits of quantum theories – scale where current physics fails …