Virtual Photons – Why Ken’s Wrong

Virtual photons are a regular target of scorn from Ken Wheeler. Find out why experiments demonstrate their existence and why the Angry Photographer feels forced to deny it.

Photons underlie all aspects of light and electromagnetic energy. That includes the charges that hold protons and electrons together inside atoms.

A wide range of scientific experiments have shown the existence of what scientists call “virtual photons.” Probably the two best known examples among numerous others are the Stahlhoffen-Nimtz quantum tunnelling experiment and the Lamb-Retherford experiment. 

Willis Lamb won the Nobel prize in physics for the latter experiment. The effect of virtual photons on the spectrum of hydrogen atoms is called the Lamb Shift in his honour.

Willis Lamb Won Nobel Prize for Virtual Photon Experiment

The terms “virtual photons” and “virtual particles” can be misleading. They make these particles sound like something artificial or imaginary, like virtual reality. However, as Professor Gordon Kane of the University of Michigan explains, “Virtual particles are indeed real and have observable effects that physicists have devised ways of measuring.”

Despite these facts, Ken Wheeler denies and ridicules the idea of virtual photons in just about every video he makes. He repeatedly claims that “virtual photons are not the inputs or outputs of any experiment ever performed on this earth.”

As we’ve seen, virtual photons are the output of many experiments. In fact, they’re the product of a groundbreaking, Nobel Prize winning physics experiment, among numerous others.

Experiments Prove Photons Have Fascinating Property

These experiments prove that photons have a fascinating property. They can divide into an electron and its opposite particle, the positron.

That pair of matched particles recombine in the blink of an eye and become a photon again. The short-lived electron and positron combination is what physicists mean by a virtual photon.

Scientists observe virtual photons in several scenarios. One is the Lamb Shift mentioned above. When Lamb and Retherford studied the light spectra from hydrogen atoms, they measured unexpected differences between two energy levels. These were caused by what scientists have come to call virtual photons.

Stahlhoffen-Nimtz Quantum Tunnelling Experiment

In the Stahlhoffen-Nimtz experiment, the scientists aimed a symmetrical light beam at a pair of right triangle prisms with a gap in between them. This split the beam into a reflected signal and a signal that transmitted across the gap.

The two signals arrived at their detectors at the same time. Physicists call this effect quantum tunnelling and it’s due to the virtual behaviour of photons.

Another example is the way electrons transition from one state to another inside atoms. When scientists excite atoms, it raises their electrons’ energy state. 

Electrons Transition Between States Inside Atoms

Intuitively, we’d expect the electron to stay in that higher energy state because energy states are permanent. However, physicists observe these electrons returning to lower energy states because of interactions with virtual photons.

In another example, physicists observe photons bouncing off one another. Since photons have no charge, there’s no reason for them to attract one another.

However, when a photon divides into an electron and a positron, these charged particles may interact with other photons. Experiments reveal that those interactions can sometimes cause photon collisions. This is why Ken Wheeler goes out of his way to make fun of “the theory of bumping particles.”

Virtual Photons Cause Magnetic Fields Poles

Quantum electrodynamic (QED) experiments prove with a margin of error of 10−12 that virtual photons cause magnetic fields. These results make QED one of the most accurate physical theories in history.

The Casimir experiment offers even more empirical evidence for virtual photons. Scientists place two parallel mirrors facing each other in a vacuum. If they set them up at a distance smaller than the wavelength of the light they use, the mirrors will move toward one another.

This happens because once the distance between the mirrors is shorter than the wavelength, virtual photons no longer fit between them. That reduces the energy between the two mirrors, drawing them together.

Wrong When He Denies Virtual Photon Experiments

So, the Angry Photographer is simply wrong when he says that virtual photons aren’t the input or output of any experiment. Their existence is a proven scientific fact.

The Theoria Apophasis host persists in devoting enormous energy to ridiculing virtual photons for two reasons. First, he can’t explain the results of these experiments any other way.

Second, the existence of virtual photons, and other virtual particles, proves the existence of subatomic particles. Strange as it may seem, Kentucky Ken vehemently denies proven scientific facts most of us learned in high school about electrons, photons and neutrons.

Subscribes to Pseudoscience by Discredited Theorists

Ken Wheeler subscribes to pseudoscience propagated by discredited theorists like Eric Dollard and Nikola Tesla. They deny the existence of subatomic particles. They’re also wrong.

Their notions fly in the face of more than a century of scientific progress. For example, this is a photograph of an electron.

And this is a colour-enhanced photograph of photons displaying wave-like and particle-like characteristics at the same time.

Views Discussions of Subatomic Particles as Moral Disputes

Oddly, the Angry Photographer views discussions of subatomic particles and their behaviour as moral issues. This is because he conflates modern particle physics with ancient Greek metaphysics.

Although he frequently misinterprets him, the creator of Theoria Apophasis is a staunch follower of Plato. Just as he mistakenly believed the Sun went around the Earth, Plato believed in a substance called the ether. We now know there’s no such thing.

We debunk Ken Wheeler’s notion of the ether in more detail under Field Theory – Why Ken’s Wrong. Also, the YouTuber Planarwalk provides a more detailed refutation of the Angry Photographer’s notions about the ether here.

Ken Wheeler is Firmly on Team Plato

Democritus and Epicurus were rivals of Plato. They believed that matter consists of tiny particles they called atoms. As a result, they were sometimes called atomists.

Coincidentally, Plato believed in the afterlife while atomists generally didn’t. Since Ken Wheeler is firmly on Team Plato, he concludes that all atomists are evil.

What do ancient Greek philosophers have to do with today’s experimental observations? Nothing. What does particle physics have to do with morality or with the afterlife? Again, nothing.

In His Mind, If Photons Exist, He’s Going to Die Someday

The underlying issue behind Ken Wheeler’s ridicule of virtual photons is that, in his mind, if they exist, it means he’s going to die someday. This is something with which he’s been unable to come to terms.

When asked about what happens when we die, the Angry Photographer inevitably replies with, “what makes you think you’re that which dies?” He finds the idea of death without an afterlife oddly threatening.

Leo Tolstoy famously wrote that, “A person who is afraid of death is one who has not lived his life properly and has broken the law of life.” Throughout this website, we can see examples of the Theoria Apophasis host representing the work of others as his own, lying to his audience and defaming other content creators.

Rejects Any School of Thought Teaching No Afterlife

His resulting fear of death colours Ken Wheeler’s judgment when it comes to anything connected to science or philosophy. He rejects any school of thought that hints that he may have no afterlife as irredeemably evil.

The Angry Photographer is entitled to believe anything he likes about life after death. None of us could claim to have all the answers on such an esoteric topic. In his defense, most of us fear death in one way or another.

Rejects Scientific Facts that Challenge His Spiritual Beliefs

Even so, he goes out of bounds when he rejects proven scientific facts that, in his mind, challenge his spiritual beliefs. Facts are facts and we should all let them lead us toward the truth.

Michael Crichton wrote that, “We all live in virtual environments, defined by our ideas.” Sadly, in Ken Wheeler’s case, his ideas construct an illusory environment bearing virtually no resemblence to metaphysical or scientific truth.

Ken’s Evidence:

Are virtual particles really constantly popping in and out of existence?
What Are Virtual Particles?
What Is the Casimir Effect?
Ken Wheeler’s Incoherent Word Salad Tries to Prove the Aether
Field Theory – Why Ken’s Wrong

Published by David Morton Rintoul

I'm a freelance writer and commercial blogger delivering content services to selective business to business marketing clients. I have extensive experience in content creation, technical writing and training, working as a consultant and later in management roles with many of Canada's most successful organizations. Specialties: Content Marketing, Social Media, Technical Writing, Training and Development

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