Sunday, January 24, 2010

A photon's Life, in Antarctica

When I was an undergrad, I was gung ho crazy about IceCube, a high energy physics project which uses the ice of Antarctica as scintillating material to track muons.

Muons are a type of sub-atomic particle called a lepton, which is the family electrons belong to, that decay in 2.2 microseconds in their own time frame. They travel close to the speed of light, however, and because of time dilation due to special relatifvity, they travel a long ways in our time frame.

An undergraduate physics professor of mine, Howard Byrant, once remarked, in the time frame of a photon, the photon lives its entire life in a single instant.  What a beautiful thought.

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