The Knowledge of Photons
We often see the statement from climate lukewarmers and alarmists that the radiation from a cool object (such as the atmosphere) can not “know” that it is not supposed to travel to and heat up a warmer object (such as the surface), and thus, radiation from a colder object will heat up a warmer object. That is, the colder atmosphere must heat the warmer surface.
Of course, this defies all common sense and heat transfer mathematics and thermodynamics, but alas, it is what they say. They use this “net flow” argument, where cold heats up hot and hot heats up cold, but the “net heating” is hot heating cold since the hotter heats the colder by a larger amount. But simply look at the logic: if cold heats hot, then as hot heats cold, the colder will heat up the hotter more, thus heating the colder more, thus heating the hotter more…ad infinitum. So, it’s ridiculous. And of course, heat does not flow from cold to hot in any case, and heat flow input is what is required for temperature increase.
Look at the 1st Law of Thermodynamics:
First law of thermodynamics: When energy passes, as work, as heat, or with matter, into or out from a system, its internal energy changes in accord with the law of conservation of energy. Equivalently, perpetual motion machines of the first kind are impossible.
So, internal energy in the thermal case would be thermal energy measurable as the system’s temperature. To increase temperature when the action of work or exchange of matter are not occurring, then one requires heat. Thus for the electromagnetic case, look at the radiative heat flow equation (for 2 parallel walls with unit emissivity say):
Q’ = A*σ*(Thot4 – Tcool4)
This defines Q’ as the heat. There is a hot and cool term, and there is an exchange of energy between them since they are subtracting from one to the other; however, only that result after subtraction is heat. Only Q’ is heat. The radiation from the cool object to the hot object is not heat, and only the greater portion of the radiation from the hot object relative to the cool object is heat, and it transfers or flows only in the direction from the hot object to the cool object, from the greater power to the lesser power.
Since these are very basic laws of thermodynamics and heat transfer, then it has been totally established that a cool object doesn’t make a warmer object warmer still. And hence the radiative greenhouse effect of climate alarm, and climate alarm which depends upon it, is false. And we didn’t have to look at any pretty pictures to get here…simply math and logic. If you want a different result than that, then you’re going to have to change the 1st Law of Thermodynamics. Good luck with that.
Speed of Light
The lukewarmers and alarmists will still continue to wonder why the radiation from the cool object doesn’t warm the warmer object, and although this can be demonstrated via the above analysis based on first principles of physics, it doesn’t seem sufficient for them and they simply take their dissatisfaction with the answer as justification that they should continue to believe that cold can heat hot. They ask, still: How does the photon from the cold object “know” not to heat the warmer object?
It is a strange question, because we typically do not ascribe mental functions such as “knowing” to photons or other phenomena in physics. The mechanism of what occurs is described by the mathematics, and by adherence to the laws of physics, and we don’t ask, for example, how a planet “knows” to obey gravity. The question is of course incoherent, because we don’t ask for the phenomenon to have to “know” what it is doing – instead, the mathematics and physics explains what happens. Thus, since it is not possible to answer how a scientific phenomenon knows how to do anything, because the question is scientifically incoherent, then apparently they believe that this gives them the freedom to believe something which the mathematics and physics otherwise doesn’t support, since the mathematics doesn’t tell us how it “knows” to be as it is.
A related question that they should ask themselves, is how a photon “knows” to travel at the speed of light with no dependence on the reference frame of measurement? How does a photon know how to do that? We have the equations based on the phenomenon of light speed invariance, just as we have the equations for heat flow, but in both cases, how do photons “know” how to travel at the speed of light, and how do they “know” to transfer heat only from hot to cold? It seems that indeed, photons know how to do things. Like behave mathematically. We have the mathematics that describes what they do, but, why do they do what they do? How do they know?
The problem is that people don’t think like how a photon thinks nearly enough. People think like humans, with anthropocentric biases…particularly with non-relativistic anthropocentric biases! If you want to know why a photon does something, maybe you should imagine the universe in the way a photon would see the universe, rather than the way you see the universe. So how would you do this?
We know how do this. We all know about the spacetime modifications that a material object witnesses when it travels near the speed of light – time slows down and lengths contract. Of course, a material object never can actually get to the speed of light itself. However, a photon is at the speed of light. So what happens to the experience of spacetime when you actually do travel at the speed of light, like a photon does?
Relativity already has the answer: the Lorentz transformations show that time stops for a photon, i.e. time is dilated to infinity, and they show that all space distance has shrunk to zero, i.e. length contraction is infinite.
So for a photon, there is no experience of spacetime at all… At least not nearly in the way a human usually experiences it.
We think of a photon as travelling ‘from here to there’, but this is a totally anthropocentric material-based non-relativistic conception, and hence has no ontological validity whatsoever in terms of a statement of how reality functions. You have to go with what the mathematics and physics says, not what your material-based sense-perception would make you think. Photons, experiencing spacetime as infinitely length contracted and infinitely time dilated, are totally outside the anthropocentric experience of spacetime.
From the photon’s point of view there is neither any time nor any distance between where it originates in spacetime, originating say from thermal emission from a surface, and its destination at some other surface which in human experience is at some extended distance, but in the photon’s experience for which that distance is shrunk to zero, and requiring no time to get there.
Heat of the Gaps
Willis Eschenbach’s steel greenhouse concept gets to the heart of this matter. If we take the original sphere with some central internal energy source, then we have a basic diagram like this:
A sphere of radius r with internal power source X will have a surface flux of F, as indicated in the diagram. Now, what happens when you add another layer on this sphere?
All that happens is that you increase the sphere’s radius – you make a bigger sphere – resulting in a reduction of the sphere’s surface flux F relative to what it was before given a fixed P. This means a lower surface temperature. Adding a new layer to the sphere is the same thing as simply having the original sphere with a larger radius. A sphere with a larger radius won’t have a higher internal or exterior temperature just because it is a larger sphere, and likewise adding a layer to smaller sphere won’t cause the smaller sphere to be warmer either internally or on its exterior. This is of course all about conductive heat energy transfer.
Now imagine that you divide a layer from the existing sphere and begin expanding this layer outwards, such as to create a vacuum gap between an inner sphere and surrounding shell, as shown in cut-out in the next diagram. Or equally, simply bring in a shell from elsewhere to surround the sphere:The energy from the sphere, in the form of electromagnetic waves from surface thermal emission, or photons, now has to cross the gap in order for the energy to transfer to the shell. From a photon’s point of view, that gap is length-contracted to zero distance (and in fact the entire shell and everything else in the universe is length contracted to zero).
Now in conductive transfer of heat energy we imagine a physical or mechanical propagation of energy. Conductive transfer is, however, entirely mediated by the electromagnetic force because this transfer occurs via the electromagnetic forces of the electron clouds surrounding the constituent atoms. This exchange of force between “touching atoms” is mediated by virtual photons.
So you see the connection here? There is no real ontological difference between conductive transfer of heat energy and radiative transfer of heat energy; radiative transfer of heat is simply conductive transfer but occurring at what we experience as a distance. They are mediated by the exact same force of electromagnetism. From the photon’s point of view however, there is no distance and no time required to travel that distance at all.
Therefore, since making a smaller sphere with a central power source into a bigger sphere doesn’t increase the sphere’s temperature, then putting a shell around the sphere doesn’t increase the sphere’s temperature either, because ontologically, from the point of view of the mediator of the energy, the photon, there is no distance. So, if you want to know “why” or “how” an individual photon knows not to send heat energy backwards from a cold object to a warmer object, and why and how the radiative heat flow equation shows that heat only flows in one direction across a gap, the reason is because the gap doesn’t exist for the photon. The quantification is a bit different, sure, with conductive transfer being proportional to the linear difference of temperature, and radiative transfer being proportional to the difference of fourth powers of temperature, but ontologically it is still the same fundamental force of physics (electromagnetism mediated by photons) involved in the transfer of heat energy.
And this is why the same laws of thermodynamics apply: there is no such thing as “back-conduction” of heat energy, just as there is no such thing as “back-radiation” of heat energy.
If you would like to read more about Ontological Mathematics, and to learn what it is and how it can be used to scientifically, mathematically, and logically explain things that anthropocentric sense-perception based materialist science has insurmountable problems with, please see the treatise in the series of philosophy books titled “The God Series“.