Here is something to think about that was only casually mentioned in passing in the recent video that was posted.
The sunlight you may or may not have experienced today finally managed to reach you after a ~100,000 year long journey since it was originally created at the Sun’s core!
Since the speed of light is finite, about 300,000,000 meters/second (or about 671,000,000 miles/hour), it takes time for it to travel from one point in space to another.
Given that the distance from Earth to the Sun is about 150,000,000,000 meters (about 93,000,000 miles) it takes about 8 minutes for light to reach us!
But this is just the time it takes light to reach us from the surface of the sun.
The light coming from the surface of the Sun is itself created as a by-product of nuclear fusion occurring deep in the Sun’s core.
Once light is created at at the Sun’s core it begins its journey to the surface of the Sun some 700,000,000 meters (430,000 miles) away from the core.
One might assume that this light takes the shortest path and heads straight to the surface, which would only take a couple seconds of travel time.
However, this is not the case because there is all kinds of star stuff that gets in the way.
An actual photon may only travel a mere fraction of a centimeter (anywhere between .01 and .3 centimeters depending on how close it is to the surface) before it makes a collision with other matter thereby diverting its path to some other random direction.
Photons continue moving in these seemingly random trajectories, bumping into other particles along the way, and don’t actually reach the surface until about 100,000 years later (give or take an order of magnitude)!
This kind of behavior characterizing the photons motion is modeled by something called a random walk, and is illustrated in a few different instances in the animations above.
Random walks have widespread applications through out the sciences and mathematics. The idea of random walks are even used in some computer algorithms to allow for more efficient solutions to some problems.
One particular application of personal interest, and a rather abstract generalization of the idea, is the quantum random walk, in which the superposition principle of quantum mechanics is used to put the trajectory into a combination of multiple possible trajectories to assist quantum computers in solving problems. The workings of Grover’s search algorithm can be thought of in this way. This isn’t the only instance that relates quantum mechanics to the workings of the Sun (see here).
Anyway, next time you are out in the relentless light of the Sun you may wonder what was going on some 100,000 years ago when that light first originated in the Sun, or maybe even where you’ll be 100,000 years from now when the light being created in the Sun at this moment finally reaches Earth.
(GIFs created from this Java app)