Year: 2015 Pages: 12

The propagation of light remains one of the enduring mysteries of science. Unlike every other known kind of wave, it travels at a constant speed without a medium of propagation. What supports its travel in empty space? Why is its speed so constant? And why is it so very fast? Even Einstein gave up trying to puzzle it out and simply stated the propagation of light as a postulate. While Maxwell’s equations explain the behavior (the what) of light, they don’t explain the how. They show that the speed of light is determined by two constants - epsilon and mu - but not why these two constants have the values that they do rather than having some other values. So our questions remain: how and why? Maxwell’s equations actually do answer these questions. We just haven’t understood the message because of our human laundry list of implicit assumptions about the characteristics required of medium of propagation. As often happens with implicit assumptions, nearly all of them are wrong.

Light has not one but two mediums of propagation. The electric fields in electromagnetic waves are the medium of propagation for the magnetic fields, and the magnetic fields are the medium of propagation for the electric fields. Their dance with each other is what moves light through empty space, much like molecules of air do when propagating sound. Ironically, since the waves of light and the dancing electric and magnetic fields are the same things, the mediums of propagation quite literally have been hiding in plain sight.

This paper examines both the equation for the speed of sound and Maxwell’s equations from a new perspective. In essence, it performs a mathematical autopsy of both to illuminate what lies within and, in the process, solves the mysteries of light’s propagation as simply the laws of physics at work.