Reflections on the speed of light

I saw the sun setting recently and it occured to me that the term “sunset” can be interpreted both as a static concept (ie one that describes a state of affairs which is either completely in existence or completely not in existence) and as a dynamic process.

I owe this insight in part to John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars. That book includes the following sentence: “As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once.” I admired the way the book was written as it is incredibly poignant, but its best not to read it unless you’re in a positive headspace.

Sunset can be used to refer both to an instantaneous moment (if we adopt a static conception) and to a gradual process (if we adopt a dynamic conception).

I then started to think about the concept of the speed of light in the same way. I don’t know much about the concept other than that it exists, but I realised that I’d been taking it to be a theory about an aspect or aspect of the movement of electrons through space. I’m not sure if this is correct or not. The speed of light may have nothing to do with the movement of photons through space. It did occur to me though to ask whether I could think about the concept in a more dynamic way.

I’m wondering if its worthwhile examining the concept of the speed of light not by reference to the movement of photons through space, but by reference to the change in the frequency of photons which stay in position.

It seems to me that it is possible that there is light everywhere as not all types of light can be detected with the same apparatus. We can’t see some types of light. Its not necessarily true that there’s no light in the sky at night just because we can’t see any. We can think of night and day not as the movement of light through the sky, but as light just gradually moving in and out of the wavelength spectrum that we can detect. Maybe the speed of light could be better thought of as the speed of light’s movement through that spectrum? Or as a concept that includes both of these types of movement, i.e. movement through space and movement through the spectrum? Both forms of movement could be happening (or capable of happening) at the same time.

I’m probably misusing some of these terms as I don’t have much of a background in physics. But (at least in my view) whether I am or not doesn't affect whether this approach to the concept may be useful or interesting.

Hopefully I’ll eventually get round to looking into whether there is any tested science on this point. If there is some merit to this approach to the concept, I wonder if its possible to refine the model even further and make it even more useful.