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"Electrons can't exceed the speed of light -- thanks to light itself, says biologist"

17.12.10

 

When resolving why electrons can never beat the speed limit set by light, it might be best to forget about time. Thanks to insight from studying movement inside a biological cell, it seems that light itself -- not the relativity of time -- may be the traffic cop, according to a Cornell biologist.


Any space with a temperature above absolute zero consists of photons. As a result of the Doppler effect, the moving electron experiences the photons crashing into the front of it as being blue-shifted, and the photons colliding with the back of it as being red-shifted. Since blue-shifted photons exert more momentum than red-shifted photons, the photons themselves exert a counterforce on the moving electron, just as the cytoplasm in a cell exerts a viscous force on the moving organelles. The viscous force that arises from the Doppler-shifted photons prevents electrons from exceeding the speed of light, according to Randy Wayne, associate professor of plant biology.

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