Physics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for active researchers, academics and students of physics. It's 100% free.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
How can a photon have no mass and still travel at the speed of light?

If light travels at the speed of light, and anything with rest mass will experience relativistic effects based on the Lorentzian equations, why doesn't light experience these kinds of effects?

For example, relativistic mass and rest mass are related via

$$m = \frac{m_0}{\sqrt{1-\dfrac{v^2}{c^2}}}$$

Shouldn't light therefore have no rest mass (since the Lorentzian is $0$)?

share|cite|improve this question

marked as duplicate by Qmechanic Jan 23 '13 at 9:52

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

You might want to take a look at this question: Do light and sound waves have mass. – Wouter Jan 23 '13 at 8:51
Possible duplicate: – Qmechanic Jan 23 '13 at 9:52

You are quite correct, light has zero invarient mass.

Light does experience relativistic effects, but because $\gamma$ goes to infinity at $c$ you'll get confused using the Lorentz transformation to try and understand what is going on. The best way to understand the effect of relativity on light is to note that light travels on null geodesic. We can use the heavy machinery of general relativity to calculate the null geodesics for any spacetime and hence work out what happens to light. For example this allows us to calculate the bending of light in a gravitational field and also the fact light can't escape from a black hole.

share|cite|improve this answer
Why would it go to infinity at c? Shouldn't that be 0? – Garan Jan 23 '13 at 9:01
$\gamma$ is $1/(1 - v^2/c^2)$ so it goes to $\infty$ as $v$ goes to $c$. However $1/\gamma$ does indeed go to zero. – John Rennie Jan 23 '13 at 9:11
Ah. So according to what I said, light would not have mass (or at least incalculable mass), but with what you have said, it has a mass that can be used in calculations? – Garan Jan 23 '13 at 9:22
No, light has zero mass. It has energy and it carries momentum, and these are important when calculating it's behaviour, but the mass is always zero. – John Rennie Jan 23 '13 at 9:34

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.