First off, I confess I'm no physicist, but I have been asking people with a more extensive knowledge this one question, without a definitive answer so far.
Basically, I'm playing around with the idea of photons having mass as this part of the wiki page shows, it's not an entirely new concept... Especially the latest (mangled) sentence is of interest to me.
I have been reading up about light, the duality of it, photons and it being the only known gauge boson (massless thingamajig) and what have you. As a result, I'm even more confused, so I thought I'd ask my question here.
Suppose we took two perfect mirrors, stretching out into infinity, perfectly parallel, facing each other. If I were to shoot a photon onto either one of these mirrors at a 45deg. angle, what would happen.
As far as I can know (or guess, or can imagine) either one of three things can happen:
- The photon just bounces back and forth into infinity at that leisurely pace of $c$.
- Calling on the particle part of light's duality: Every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. Upon colliding with the surface of the mirrors, energy is needed for the photon to change direction. As everything strides towards entropy, I'd assume there is some heat being released (photon's energy onto the mirror)?
If that's the case, at some point the photon's electromagnetic "charge", ie energy-reserves should run out. What do I end up with? Slightly warmer mirrors and a massless, empty shell of a photon at the end? What is a photon that no longer has any energy anyway? Is that the famous dark-matter... or am I going all too scifi-crazy now? Because somewhere I did read that light, being massless, obviously has no rest-matter either, nor does it have an electric charge of its own. That causes me to think of a photon as some sort of carrier, an empty satchel and because it's not exactly huge, it can but contain a finite amount of energy (I think).
- Last thing I can think of: because of my photon's bouncing, and my being at a terrible loss trying to grasp the formula's and theories about light's physical properties I've gotten the (perhaps silly) idea that the constant changing of the direction of propagation could affect the wavelength, essentially generating something more like gamma-rays. Again, I don't know what this entails for my mirror-setup, but when news breaks of an impending nuclear disaster, I don't think a mirror completely deflects gamma rays. In other words, I don't even think it unlikely if somebody told me that photon would just bugger off.
I hope someone can make sense of the bizarre meanders of a non-physicist's mind, but I would like to know the answer to a question I came up with about 10 years ago.
So far I've gotten the answers:
- Oh, I'd have to check on that one.
- Of course, they talk about the duality of light, but light is, essentially pure energy. they've developed this dual-character as a working model. Much like everything "'t is but a theory" (I particularly disliked this answer for some reason)
- Do you know how they spot a black hole? (I replied: No) Because there is light, but none around it. All light is drawn to the black hole. (this was followed by an awkward silence, and a smug nod. Which met with a confused and monkey like gaze from my part)
Any more confusing ideas are always welcome.
Thanks to all of you for the info. In response to the comments, the kernel of the question is this: If I were able to follow the afore mentioned proton in this setup, what changes, if any, will I see along the line? Heat being generated? The photon "disintegrating" or dissipating, nothing (just endlessly bouncing back and forth...?
Reading the wiki on Total Internal Reflection, I noticed that this occurs with soundwaves, too. I immediately thought of that horrid screeching feedback noise you can get if you hold a mic to a speaker. I guess I sort of translated that phenomenon into the photon changing wavelengths.
Funny, but true: I remember as a child asking my father if you were able to create an infinite broadcast of sorts using two transmitters and two receivers playing a sound back and forth to them. In some way or another, I've always wondered about stuff like this as it turns out...
I suppose the mirrors would have to have infinite mass for them to stretch out into infinity. Though after some more checking, that complicates things considering $E = pc$. I've added that to my many light-related bookmarks, and I'll get back to you on that.