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Related Questions
How can the light move at the same speed in different
reference systems?

69 Answers
Alex Sergeev, PhD in Physics
1.9k Views • Alex has 90+ answers in Physics

Is it possible to exceed the speed of light in a medium
other than vacuum while in that medium?
Does the speed of light varying in different mediums
contradict Einstein's assumption about it?

Speed of light is not considered constant. That's a common misconception.

As it is said that light speed is different in different
medium depending upon refractive index of materials.
My question is that can we slow ...

There is a fundamental constant c. Light waves move at this speed through vacuum in all
inertial reference frames. It can move slower if it undergoes interaction with matter.

How does the medium affect the speed of light?

Now, I'm not aware of what different readings you are talking about, but I might assume
that you mean the measured value of speed of light in vacuum. Different methods have
different precisions, so of course numbers will be a bit different. But all the modern
measurements are very close to each other and are extremely precise.
Another way to interpret your question is: How do we know the speed of light is constant?
That is, if it has been the same value all the time in the past. We don't know, but we are
pretty sure it didn't change much (see the answers to that question).

Does light (speed 'c' in vacuum) travel at a lesser
speed in denser medium like air, water, oil, glass etc.?
How is teleportation different from the speed of light?
How can the Electromagnetic boundary conditions for
time varying fields between two different medium be
derived?
What is the speed of light in a medium having a
refractive index less than 1?

Written 17 Oct 2014 • View Upvotes • Answer requested by 1 person
Why does the value of G, speed of light and other
scientific constants not vary?

Related Questions
More Answers Below
How can the light move at the same speed in different reference systems?
Is it possible to exceed the speed of light in a medium other than vacuum while in that
medium?
Does the speed of light varying in different mediums contradict Einstein's assumption
about it?
As it is said that light speed is different in different medium depending upon refractive
index of materials. My question is that can we slow ...
How does the medium affect the speed of light?

Matt Hodel, undergraduate student
3.5k Views • Matt has 90+ answers and 4 endorsements in Physics

Just a small comment regarding the apparent discrepancy between Jacob's and Edward's
nice answers. Both are correct, they just look at the situation from different theories.
Edward answers the question in the context of classical electromagnetism (as described by
Maxwell's Equations). In this setting, light is an electromagnetic wave and strange
dispersive phenomena (as well as refraction and the like) will cause the group velocity of
the wave to be less than c, even though the phase velocity is still exactly c everywhere in the
wave. (I believe this is correct, please comment if I'm saying something that's wrong. Is this
related to the idea that the path the light takes zig zags...that sounds to me like repeated
refraction).
Jacob answers the question in the context of quantum electrodynamics, where light is
thought of as a flux of particles called photons. Each photon represents a quantum
excitation of the electromagnetic field. Photons, being particles, can be absorbed and
emitted. When they are not busy being absorbed or admitted, photons are always moving
at speed c. However, as Jacob says, in a material there are plenty of atoms floating around
eager to absorb some photons and then reemit them to jump back down to their ground
state. This process--absorption and emission--takes time and it is what appears to slow
down the speed of light.
Written 16 Apr 2014 • View Upvotes

Mark Barton, PhD in Physics, The University of Queensland, physicist with
National Astrono...
1.2k Views • Most Viewed Writer in Relativity (physics) with 480+ answers

No. If a medium has refractive index [math]n[/math] then the velocity of light in that
medium is [math]c/n[/math]. That's a perfectly ordinary, non-magical velocity, in that it
doesn't transform to [math]c[/math], or itself, or anything else remarkable if you plug it

S. Being transparent means that light just passes through. This gives us diamond and graphite. The Fizeau experiment is less famous than the much later Michelson–Morley experiment but was just as influential at the time. But wait. PhD Candidate at UChicago. If the photon doesn't get absorbed. We need to look at the lattice level. while being opaque means the solid absorbs the photon. Here's why this doesn't totally work though. This can't be true..it probably would not transmit through the solid but will get reflected back. semiconductors. and more. Both of these have completely different indices of refraction. This causes the delay in the light propagation that we talk about. Assuming we shine that light rather coherently through that material. unlike atomic transitions. The solid would gain some heat related to the change in momentum of the photon. this doesn't happen. we can at least talk about some correlation between the incoming photon and the excited atom (a process of stimulated emission). Perhaps.. if we talk fundamentally about the atomic absorption and emission. Atomic Absorption and Emission (faulty) A lot of people try to naturally think classically and say "there must be some sort of frictional force in the medium" or the light is delayed / slowed down somehow. it might be reasonable to think that this is dominated by the stimulated emission. I would try and use the analogy that photons are to electromagnetic radiation (EM fields) like phonons are to lattice modes. This collective behavior (Solid State physics) leads to a lot of measurable properties such as specific heat and so on.. Take a piece of glass. I'm not fully aware of anyone who has completely described the mechanism involved since this involves describing light (photons) in a quantum mechanical description. there's more! Graphite isn't isotropic! It's index of refraction is different along different axes within its structure! Phonons (more correct) As I probably hinted with the carbon-explanation. But clearly. faulty explanations. since we can't tell the difference between these two things. that it has to depend on what atoms we use. from Caltech. are less discrete and there is a transmission bandwidth where our material is transparent or not. Fizeau measured the speed of light in flowing water and got what was in retrospect the velocity addition formula. you might think of multiple atoms further discretizing the atomic transition levels which is a lot more of a continuum (phonon modes) than a single atom and that the overall behavior of the atoms determines these properties. The phonon modes. So we can at least see that while spontaneous emission would occur (light emits in all directions). This tells me that a continuum input of light leads to a continuum output of light. I can shine a lot of different frequencies of light through it. then we have to conclude that light is emitted at quantized. let's say the photon gets absorbed . talking about the atomic level is already too far. A Licensed Quantum Mechanic who. there seems to be something fundamentally different between diamond and graphite that we must see at a higher level. This leads to them thinking about an atom in that medium being excited and then re-emitting the light. There's a sort of collective behavior that we observe with other atoms and it is this collective behavior that forms some of our fundamental objects such as conductors.. then there's a subtle disturbance between the photon being absorbed and re-emitted. at this point. Here's the good part. This was actually an important constraint when Einstein was developing relativity (and others were trying to make an aether theory work).(as [math]u=c/n[/math]) into the Velocity-addition formula . insulators. Written 13 Oct 2014 • View Upvotes Giordon Stark. However. Let's take one of the most common elements: carbon. meaning that the phonon mode doesn't quite "click". This was a puzzle because it was somewhere between the scenarios where you could make a plausible argument from the aether theory. B. and this is brownian thermal noise that we'll see here. Another satisfying reason: let's say you are still convinced. Let's just dispel the common. Now. A photon gets absorbed by the solid and converted to a set of vibrations (their energies correspond to the energy of the photon). Where do phonons fit in? Phonons are how we describe the fundamental. the structure. Updated 31 Dec 2013 • View Upvotes . Clearly. either no effect or the full effect from combining [math]c/n[/math] with the Galilean velocity addition formula ([math]u'=u+v[/math]). vibrational modes within the lattice. discrete frequencies. (I guess out of resonance). 785 Views • Giordon has 300+ answers and 17 endorsements in Physics This is such a hard question.

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