Related topics: cern · large hadron collider · protons · neutrinos · light

New research looks at gamma-ray bursts

Astrophysicists Jon Hakkila of the College of Charleston and Robert Nemiroff of the Michigan Technological University have published research indicating that blasts that create gamma-ray bursts may actually exceed the speed ...

Quantum light sources pave the way for optical circuits

An international team headed up by Alexander Holleitner and Jonathan Finley, physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), has succeeded in placing light sources in atomically thin material layers with an accuracy ...

Peering into plasma mirrors

When light interacts with a mirror which is moving towards it at a speed close to the speed of light, its wavelength is shifted into the extreme ultraviolet region of the spectrum. This effect was first predicted by Albert ...

Testing the symmetry of space-time by means of atomic clocks

In his Special Theory of Relativity, Einstein formulated the hypothesis according to which the speed of light is always the same, no matter what the conditions are. It may, however, be possible that—according to theoretical ...

High-speed supernova reveals earliest moments of a dying star

An international team of scientists, including astronomers from the Universities of Leicester, Bath and Warwick, have found evidence for the existence of a 'hot cocoon' of material enveloping a relativistic jet escaping a ...

page 1 from 15

Speed of light

The term speed of light generally refers to a fundamental physical constant of spacetime that limits the rate of transfer of matter or information. The speed of light is the speed of not just visible light, but of all electromagnetic radiation in vacuum (also called free space), and usually is denoted by the symbol c. Speeds faster than that of light are encountered in physics but, in all such cases, no matter or information is transmitted faster than c. The speed of light also plays a role in general relativity, and is believed to be the speed of gravitational waves.

In SI units, the magnitude of the speed of light in vacuum is exactly 299,792,458 metres per second (m/s) because of the way the metre is defined. More about this topic is found below in Speed of light set by definition.

For many practical purposes, the speed of light is so great that it can be regarded to travel instantaneously. An exception is where long distances or precise time measurements are involved. For example, in the Global Positioning System (GPS), a GPS receiver measures its distance to satellites based on how long it takes for a radio signal to arrive from the satellite. In astronomy, distances are often measured in light-years, the distance light travels in a year.

The speed of light when it passes through a transparent or translucent material medium, like glass or air, is less than its speed in vacuum. The speed is inversely proportional to the refractive index of the medium. In specially-prepared media, the speed can be tiny, or even zero.

For many years the speed of light was the subject of speculation, some believing it to be infinite. The first effective measurements of the speed of light were made in the seventeenth century, and these were progressively refined until, in 1983, the speed of light in vacuum was fixed by definition.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA