Do photons (light) have mass? if so, then what is the speed of light?

This article is not made to hand over any amazing fact, it is just designed to make you think about accuracy, and how our universe may not be fully defined, even though some theories make it seem like it is (as was the case with Newtonian mechanics in the past). The article offers you a chance to think outside the box, and go out and research the topics mentioned below, and to find out more of course.


☆ IMNH (I’m a New Hypothesis) or ImaH abbreviation:

Be careful to remember alternative ideas of things in a separate way, always consider the official or popular idea of physics as the best story (most up to date facts) to describe how things work in our universe. remembering several possibilities is a skill you might need in several areas of life. So this little thought exercise might help you in unexpected ways.

This article is also an assistance in keeping hypothesis, and theories separate in your mind, and might be worth reading: ✒ Alternative Ideas, Thoughts, Versions [article]:

Don’t always take an authorities word for everything, make up alternative ideas, or look for people with different ideas, and find out who opposes or supports your collected, or made up new ideas.

This is the main purpose of this article, it is also here to cast reasonable doubt into something we are all told is true, and to introduce the research edge of science on this topic in an interesting way that you might find engaging. For the first time in your life you might have to chance to prove ideas wrong or right through your own research, this can be an adventure for you, that you might often miss out on, because you have not been encourage to question things. You are encouraged to question things here.

Particle physics is quite confusing, and there might be a big chance that some assumptions here could be totally wrong, but those that try and disprove ideas can get it wrong too. A photon is a force carrier for both magnetic and electric fields, and thus is the source for a number of constants. Some people present equations, then they say that those equations are independent of the concept of a photon—they would be wrong in most cases (if they don’t explain what alternative force carriers they used). It the person doesn’t know about force carriers, just leave the argument, go on with your research, they might need to catch up on some facts like you might be doing right now, as you prove this article right or wrong.

Occasionally people stick to their view in a religious way, and seem unable to accept different ideas (sometimes they lack time also): those people are not the kind of researcher that would be interested in a discussion like this.

For us this is not only a way to generate ideas about photons, but a method to collect interesting material about this subject, as we think more about the possibility of a photon having mass. before the theory of relativity, Newtonian mechanics seem to work well for most things. It is only with new discoveries, that our ideas can advance. The thought exercise here will encourage you to collect not stamps, but fascinating facts about our universe, and the very tiny sphere of particle physics. You may even find out a little more about yourself.

There is no evidence that photons do or do not have mass. The current ideas (called theories by some) are that light has no mass–but relativity will not be effected, should photons be found to have a very tiny mass. More about tiny mass below. Remember, in normal theory it is accepted that photons have no mass. The article here discusses another possible scenario, often called a hypotheses.

This is an article talking about the mass of a photon: “Astrophysical upper limits on the photon rest mass:”, the article is dated at 1976, and a lot of new things have been discovered since then, such as the Higgs Boson, so there may be newer material on this.

This is an article by a professional person, and the article is called: “ELECTRIC AND MAGNETIC FIELDS DUE TO MASSIVE PHOTONS AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES:” dated 2014.

Of course what is considered here is probably a much smaller variation from zero mass to a mass that is extremely small or undetectable (at extremely small scales, the idea of mass and even time may loose its meaning). Even so giving a photon mass will have a cascade effect on how we think light behaves. This could also generate many experiments to test the ideas presented here, but some things can be harder to test then other things.

1) The photon generating virtual particles (short lived) and skipping across quantum foam is a total guess, as force carriers that last forever or near to it, should exist without change in standard-theory from what is understood (a photon is totally stable, and can not change, even for a very short time, over an infinite time frame). Here it is suggested that is not the case, and photons do change even over short journeys, as they journey across the quantum foam, but the process of a photon generating particles (and short delay?) always in most cases results in a photon exiting the particle reaction… making it seem that a photon is skipping across the quantum foam. In theory photons do have momentum, but since there is no mass, the momentum is transferred directly as energy (this is the process that can make solar sails “sail,” as light can exert a pressure). If photons have mass (no matter how small) then they would interact with other mass particles (a collision), while photons might not decay (have a half life like radioactive particles) they may react with virtual particles, or even on their own be unstable at times (but the particle reactions always result in a photon exiting ==> the result is that a photon might appears to be a stable particle over larger scales, and any mass can be ignored for the most part.

Some try and disprove this alternative scenario by assuming that photons are not the force carrier for magnetic fields, and that perfect vacuums exist (they don’t, instead vacuums are filled with a virtual particles).

At the moment we have models of physics for particles that are not complete, and may not be able to fully describe what a photon is, as gravity is still not fully explained, and when it is, there will probably be other mysteries reveled, that will still make the photon a mysterious particle.

Just as Eisenstein’s theory of relativity was only relevant for particles, and things that traveled very fast (near or at the speed of light). The need to know about the mass of a photon (if it has such a thing) might only be required in detecting variations in universal constants, such as the Higgs field for example (but that is just a guess).

The reasons for this is to do with measures and when such measures seem to not make sense at the very small scale. Mass has recently been described as the interaction with a field (a Higgs field), the small scales spoken about are shown here:


However the magnetic field theory uses force exchanges described here:

Force exchanges are classed as gauge bosons and are not quantized

The life of a force is related to its mass, the longer the life, the further reaching the force is, thus the long lasting photon has a very low mass or no mass at all. Both the photon and gravitron are thought to be massless—and that means the range of these two forces is unlimited or infinite (an impossibly large scale to measure).

However particles don’t have actual mass, they get mass from interacting with the higgs field, and the spinless (unknown before, as all particles had spin except this one) higgs boson, must exist all over the universe to produce this generated (virtual) particle that produces the higgs field. However it seems that in this case, the higgs boson does not need to exist, for the higgs field to exist (that is the higgs field has no source particle—a requirement that other field particles need to be generated in the first place), or if the higgs field needs higgs bosons they would only briefly be generated throughout all known space, but on disappearing, the higgs field still remains. However the photons, gravitons (some questions here as they might travel between universes), and gluons don’t interact with the higgs field (as they don’t have any mass).

2) However here ==> it is assumed that photons do interact with the Higgs field, but only in a very small way.

The Higgs Boson has mass as the higgs field likes to interact with itself, and the Higgs Boson.

Magnetic fields are also virtual particles, and their numbers indicate the strength of the field, the fall off of the field indicates how many virtual particles are at a particular location. Magnetic fields even exist for galaxies. The electro-magnetic force explains the propagation of light (light is modeled as an alternating magnetic and electric field that are at right angles, A. I. Arbab suggests massive photons would have misaligned fields. The question of a slightly misaligned field might result in the photon being a mass particle that moves from electric to magnetic properties is difficult to imagine). Photons are the force carriers. In models force carriers snap back to source particle if they are heavy, but that does not seem to make sense for a mass-less-photon that has has infinite range (it never snaps back). On the other hand a mass-photon might snap back to the generating particle, but it may take a nearly infinite amount of time to do so, it it does not meet up with another particle, the question then is, if the generating force carrier ceases to exist, does the distant photon also cease to exist (quantum entanglement). Or is it the case that like a higgs field, the photon can exist without the particle that generates it.

If photons could split into virtual particles during it’s travels, would high energy photons split into more exotic virtual particles more often, the answer would seem to be yes intuitively, but particle physics is a strange world.

The reasons why the earths magnetic field is intense, is because the energy of a lot of atoms, creates an energy where lots of virtual particles can exist (force carriers) the fields are most intense at the poles, and less intense at the equator, in relation to how many virtual particles exist at each location.

Gravitons are the force carriers of gravity (it too has no mass, and travels at the speed of light).

In this view photons and other particles like electrons are just fields whose vibrations produce an effect that we see as a physical thing (of course this is at a very small scale, not visible to the eye, except when huge numbers of those things are combined into large amounts that we can sense). Photons are the force carriers for magnetic fields (even galaxies have magnetic fields).

μ0 is known as the magnetic constant, and is determined by an electric charge (such as an electron) moving through a magnetic field. As we know the force carriers for a magnetic field are photons.

Some people will define the speed of light as ε0=1/(μ0+c2) => c = SQRT (1/ε00) claiming that this equation is independent of the particle we call a photon, but that is unlikely, since it is the photon that is the force carrier for the fields.

Mass is defined by measurements of distance over time, but below 1 femtometer, and especially the plank distance 1.6 x 10-35 m measures become very difficult if not impossible. The Plank time is 10-43 seconds. Thus our measurement devices find it very difficult to measure very small masses, if not impossible, so we can never really know if light photons have no mass. You might ask well, if a mass is too tiny to measure, or is not even definable if it becomes too small, what difference could it possibly make.

A tiny shift in the the way the Higgs field works could mean the end of all matter: So far gravitons, and photons appear to be different force carriers and fundamental particles, even a small behavioral change in the “mass-photon” (but a mass-less photon would not be effected) could spell huge changes for our universe as we know it.

Measuring gravitons is probably very difficult, as they are said to travel between different universes.

If photons even had unmeasurably small, on a universal scale there would be effects to the way space-time stretches (possibly), and slight variations to the total mass of the universe.

Many of us read text books and get lessons from teachers that tell us of how science works. For example the expansion of the universe and why light is red-shifted. This article is outside the box already by discussing the possibility that light has mass, and will stray further from the accepted by discussing the similarity of the  stretching of space time due to increasing mass and the standard ideas of the expansion of our universethere is no proof that our universe is expanding because of increasing mass that causes a ever greater distortion of space-time, but it is a interesting thought experiment and has consequences such as our universe must be gaining mass and can our universe expand forever if we use that idea. In research, if we knew what we were doing, it would not be called research. Take a chance and think outside the square, you might just be accused of becoming a researcher, even non-technical people can do this as the wright brothers have shown us with the invention of the airplane. Being a researcher does not always go down well with the teachers who mark your tests, so be careful to pretend not to be a researcher when doing scripted education where you are simply a memory machine that is expected to churn out standard results that the teacher can understand. Also remember a simple rule when you research stuffgetting things wrong is cool (as it means you gain a better understanding), but don’t abandon that line of thought, just file it, because sometimes the opinions of scientists do change and your ideas might get a second chance. For the author it was a debate about the possibility that black holes might have been larger in the early universe then predicted, and for the wright brothers: they probably never studied the then (historic) accepted ideas & theories that man could never fly.

Also remember that research takes time, and be ready to alter your ideas as you learn more or think of more angles that have to be covered by your idea. For example the author realized that if light has mass, then the max speed limit of the universe might be higher, and this in turn might alter the equation E=mc2.

The equation E=mc2 also has some interesting properties also: what if the energy produced by it based on the force carrier, which in most cases is probably light; but if it were a graviton that travels through the multiverses, then such a energy release is bound to be something that is quite interesting to think about. However such a thought line would require an article of its own, so it will not be discussed here.

Recently, there has been evidence that the Higgs Boson exists. For most of us–including the author–the exact impact this has on all the science we have learned, or what effect it has on our lives is unknown…

At school; many of us learned that photons (light) have zero mass, and also have both wave and particle like properties. In fact the speed of light is the fastest speed anything can go in our universe.  “Hence the saying that our universe has  a speed limit.”

The famous equation E=mc2 uses a symbol called “c” that stands for the speed of light.

But what if the photons are not the fasted thing in our universe (or the theoretical max speed “c” is currently set too low) because they have a very small mass#1? Then we could only conclude that the photons don’t travel at the true speed of “c”, but at a speed that is less “c.” Not only this, but the speed of photons (light) would depend on their frequency, as this measure of frequency is also a measure of energy!

So what does travel at the maximum speed limit that is allowed by our universe “c?”

Does a “particle” ever reach the universes maximum speed limit “c?” Current ideas in physics say yes! The graviton#2 would travel at the speed “c.”

If “c” is larger, then would that not effect the equation E=mc2. Possibly if it is only a small factor out, the answer to this question would be no, or at least not significantly to make it noticeable to the measuring devices we use today.

Since the discovery of the particle that might be a Higgs Boson (actually the truth is that the results of experiments on this particle is still being studied in Oct 2013, to find out if the particle fits into currently existing standard models of particle physics#3 or is something different), researchers a nailing down the exact properties of this particle, and are trying to find out if it varies in any way from what the current standard models of particle physics#3 predict.

It is difficult to know what you understand, and different parts of the world teach people different things and there is no real standard. The authors understanding of light being both wave like,  and particle like, was not understood by a electronic engineer from India for example–despite the fact that the author learned this in high school, rather then in college or university. The following information might surprise you, but the forces you learned of in school, are made up of virtual particles–photons appear to be one of the few virtual particles that act over much larger distances.

The God Particle“: The Higgs Boson

The god particle here refers not to a god, but rather to a particle that is related to virtual particles (short living particles) that are associated with it. These virtual particles interact with all other particles to give them mass, including the Higgs Boson.

“The God Particle”: The Higgs Boson :

According to this video the Higgs Boson does not interact with photon, graviton, and the glueons. If photons do have a very small rest mass (hard to discover since photons don’t move at zero velocity in nature, and are in fact considered as virtual particles) then they too will interact with the Higgs Boson (these particle exist all over our universe) through virtual (short lived particles) that will give a photon it’s mass.

It should be noted that the Higgs Boson has a rest mass#4 of 125.3 GeV/c2.
The force carriers are explained here:

Photons, Gravitons & Weak Bosons | Standard Model Of Particle Physics : #force #carriers

What is even stranger, is that gravitons are thought to be a closed loop, and their reality is not anchored to our universe–and that is why we don’t feel the full force they could exert on us. In this idea, we are only one of many universes and the force carrier called the graviton can drifts around between all the universes.

This is the article that made me wonder once more about if photons could have a mass: MIT and Harvard create new, lightsaber-like state of matter: Photonic molecules [article]:

Photons don’t normally interact with each other, so this experiment is unusual. This experiment was not designed to find the mass of a photon. It’s quite possible, as more is discovered about the Higgs Boson–or what ever that particle that was discovered in 2012–we will get to find out if a photon has mass, and we may find out how to make new types of computers, communications devices, and discover more about the beginning of our universe.

The discovery of the Higgs Boson–or what ever that particle is, will no doubt bring about many new discoveries, that we might not be able to understand just yet (such as the existence of other universes), including more information about the nature of gravity.

It will be very interesting to learn about what interaction, or lack of interaction, goes on between a photon and graviton. This might in turn explain the bending of light when it interacts with gravity, especially the extreme gravity that exists near a black hole. The current theories about the bending of light are that the very fabric of space is distorted by gravity.

Red-shift and blue-shift of light does occur in any gravitational field, not just black holes (our universes expansion might be the exception to that, as space is expanding. more discussions on this can be found below). Here is a reference to discuss how light traveling to earth is red-shifted because it has to travel out of the gravity field of the sun:

The red-shift of light also occurs when light comes from very distant objects (galaxies); who sit in a universe that is still expanding. It is almost like our very universe is becoming heavier and stretching space time to ever increasing degrees. In astronomy this stretching of space is simply explained as situation that occurred during the big bang, and continues to this day. To make things more confusing, it is possible to convert energy to mass, and also convert mass to energy. Space is also not empty, it’s a seething soup of virtual particles that come into existence for short times, and for the most part disappear into nothingness alsobut occasionally a particle strays from it’s path of destruction and becomes real permanently (It is hard to say what those “real” particles are as they could be dark matter, dark energy, visible matter, or antimatter, or possibly some exotic matter such as strangelets). As far as the author knows, additional mass in our universe has not been used to explain the stretching of space-time or if the expansion of the universe will be stopped by it. Dark Matter and Dark energy are apparently adding a force to cause the expansion of the universe to continue forever.

For now, we will have to accept that photons don’t have any mass (that we can detect) and so we must assume they have no mass for the current theories and ideas in science to work–and it’s quite possible that those theories and ideas may in fact continue to work in most cases; even if a photon does have a very small mass.


Please note: references are dated, as their information may be updated, or links may even be lost.



Last edited in April 2017

Shortened link to article: Do photons (light) have mass? if so, then what is the speed of light? [article]:

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