Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in irreversible succession through the past, in the present, the future. Time is a component quantity of various measurements used to sequence events, to compare the duration of events or the intervals between them, to quantify rates of change of quantities in material reality or in the conscious experience. Time is referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions. Time has long been an important subject of study in religion and science, but defining it in a manner applicable to all fields without circularity has eluded scholars. Diverse fields such as business, sports, the sciences, the performing arts all incorporate some notion of time into their respective measuring systems. Time in physics is unambiguously operationally defined as "what a clock reads". See Units of Time. Time is one of the seven fundamental physical quantities in both the International System of Units and International System of Quantities.
Time is used to define other quantities – such as velocity – so defining time in terms of such quantities would result in circularity of definition. An operational definition of time, wherein one says that observing a certain number of repetitions of one or another standard cyclical event constitutes one standard unit such as the second, is useful in the conduct of both advanced experiments and everyday affairs of life; the operational definition leaves aside the question whether there is something called time, apart from the counting activity just mentioned, that flows and that can be measured. Investigations of a single continuum called spacetime bring questions about space into questions about time, questions that have their roots in the works of early students of natural philosophy. Temporal measurement has occupied scientists and technologists, was a prime motivation in navigation and astronomy. Periodic events and periodic motion have long served as standards for units of time. Examples include the apparent motion of the sun across the sky, the phases of the moon, the swing of a pendulum, the beat of a heart.
The international unit of time, the second, is defined by measuring the electronic transition frequency of caesium atoms. Time is of significant social importance, having economic value as well as personal value, due to an awareness of the limited time in each day and in human life spans. Speaking, methods of temporal measurement, or chronometry, take two distinct forms: the calendar, a mathematical tool for organising intervals of time, the clock, a physical mechanism that counts the passage of time. In day-to-day life, the clock is consulted for periods less than a day whereas the calendar is consulted for periods longer than a day. Personal electronic devices display both calendars and clocks simultaneously; the number that marks the occurrence of a specified event as to hour or date is obtained by counting from a fiducial epoch – a central reference point. Artifacts from the Paleolithic suggest that the moon was used to reckon time as early as 6,000 years ago. Lunar calendars were among the first to appear, with years of either 13 lunar months.
Without intercalation to add days or months to some years, seasons drift in a calendar based on twelve lunar months. Lunisolar calendars have a thirteenth month added to some years to make up for the difference between a full year and a year of just twelve lunar months; the numbers twelve and thirteen came to feature prominently in many cultures, at least due to this relationship of months to years. Other early forms of calendars originated in Mesoamerica in ancient Mayan civilization; these calendars were religiously and astronomically based, with 18 months in a year and 20 days in a month, plus five epagomenal days at the end of the year. The reforms of Julius Caesar in 45 BC put the Roman world on a solar calendar; this Julian calendar was faulty in that its intercalation still allowed the astronomical solstices and equinoxes to advance against it by about 11 minutes per year. Pope Gregory XIII introduced a correction in 1582. During the French Revolution, a new clock and calendar were invented in attempt to de-Christianize time and create a more rational system in order to replace the Gregorian calendar.
The French Republican Calendar's days consisted of ten hours of a hundred minutes of a hundred seconds, which marked a deviation from the 12-based duodecimal system used in many other devices by many cultures. The system was abolished in 1806. A large variety of devices have been invented to measure time; the study of these devices is called horology. An Egyptian device that dates to c. 1500 BC, similar in shape to a bent T-square, measured the passage of time from the shadow cast by its crossbar on a nonlinear rule. The T was oriented eastward in the mornings. At noon, the device was turned around so. A sundial uses a gnomon to cast a shadow on a set of markings calibrated to the hour; the position of the shadow marks the hour in local time. The idea to separate the day into smaller parts is credited to Egyptians because of their sundials, which operated on a duodecimal system; the importance of the number 12 is due to the number of lunar cycles in a year and the number of stars used to count the passage of night.
The most precise timekeeping device of the ancient
In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, infrared, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays. Classically, electromagnetic radiation consists of electromagnetic waves, which are synchronized oscillations of electric and magnetic fields that propagate at the speed of light, which, in a vacuum, is denoted c. In homogeneous, isotropic media, the oscillations of the two fields are perpendicular to each other and perpendicular to the direction of energy and wave propagation, forming a transverse wave; the wavefront of electromagnetic waves emitted from a point source is a sphere. The position of an electromagnetic wave within the electromagnetic spectrum can be characterized by either its frequency of oscillation or its wavelength. Electromagnetic waves of different frequency are called by different names since they have different sources and effects on matter. In order of increasing frequency and decreasing wavelength these are: radio waves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.
Electromagnetic waves are emitted by electrically charged particles undergoing acceleration, these waves can subsequently interact with other charged particles, exerting force on them. EM waves carry energy and angular momentum away from their source particle and can impart those quantities to matter with which they interact. Electromagnetic radiation is associated with those EM waves that are free to propagate themselves without the continuing influence of the moving charges that produced them, because they have achieved sufficient distance from those charges. Thus, EMR is sometimes referred to as the far field. In this language, the near field refers to EM fields near the charges and current that directly produced them electromagnetic induction and electrostatic induction phenomena. In quantum mechanics, an alternate way of viewing EMR is that it consists of photons, uncharged elementary particles with zero rest mass which are the quanta of the electromagnetic force, responsible for all electromagnetic interactions.
Quantum electrodynamics is the theory of. Quantum effects provide additional sources of EMR, such as the transition of electrons to lower energy levels in an atom and black-body radiation; the energy of an individual photon is greater for photons of higher frequency. This relationship is given by Planck's equation E = hν, where E is the energy per photon, ν is the frequency of the photon, h is Planck's constant. A single gamma ray photon, for example, might carry ~100,000 times the energy of a single photon of visible light; the effects of EMR upon chemical compounds and biological organisms depend both upon the radiation's power and its frequency. EMR of visible or lower frequencies is called non-ionizing radiation, because its photons do not individually have enough energy to ionize atoms or molecules or break chemical bonds; the effects of these radiations on chemical systems and living tissue are caused by heating effects from the combined energy transfer of many photons. In contrast, high frequency ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays are called ionizing radiation, since individual photons of such high frequency have enough energy to ionize molecules or break chemical bonds.
These radiations have the ability to cause chemical reactions and damage living cells beyond that resulting from simple heating, can be a health hazard. James Clerk Maxwell derived a wave form of the electric and magnetic equations, thus uncovering the wave-like nature of electric and magnetic fields and their symmetry; because the speed of EM waves predicted by the wave equation coincided with the measured speed of light, Maxwell concluded that light itself is an EM wave. Maxwell's equations were confirmed by Heinrich Hertz through experiments with radio waves. According to Maxwell's equations, a spatially varying electric field is always associated with a magnetic field that changes over time. A spatially varying magnetic field is associated with specific changes over time in the electric field. In an electromagnetic wave, the changes in the electric field are always accompanied by a wave in the magnetic field in one direction, vice versa; this relationship between the two occurs without either type of field causing the other.
In fact, magnetic fields can be viewed as electric fields in another frame of reference, electric fields can be viewed as magnetic fields in another frame of reference, but they have equal significance as physics is the same in all frames of reference, so the close relationship between space and time changes here is more than an analogy. Together, these fields form a propagating electromagnetic wave, which moves out into space and need never again interact with the source; the distant EM field formed in this way by the acceleration of a charge carries energy with it that "radiates" away through space, hence the term. Maxwell's equations established that some charges and currents produce a local type of electromagnetic field near them that does not have the behaviour of EMR. Currents directly produce a magnetic field, but it is of a magnetic dipole type that dies out with distance from the current. In a similar manner, moving charges pushed apart in a conductor by a changing electrical potential produce an electric dipole type electric
Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word refers to visible light, the visible spectrum, visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light is defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres, or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7 m, between the infrared and the ultraviolet. This wavelength means a frequency range of 430–750 terahertz; the main source of light on Earth is the Sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them; this process of photosynthesis provides all the energy used by living things. Another important source of light for humans has been fire, from ancient campfires to modern kerosene lamps. With the development of electric lights and power systems, electric lighting has replaced firelight; some species of animals generate their own light, a process called bioluminescence.
For example, fireflies use light to locate mates, vampire squids use it to hide themselves from prey. The primary properties of visible light are intensity, propagation direction, frequency or wavelength spectrum, polarization, while its speed in a vacuum, 299,792,458 metres per second, is one of the fundamental constants of nature. Visible light, as with all types of electromagnetic radiation, is experimentally found to always move at this speed in a vacuum. In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not. In this sense, gamma rays, X-rays and radio waves are light. Like all types of EM radiation, visible light propagates as waves. However, the energy imparted by the waves is absorbed at single locations the way particles are absorbed; the absorbed energy of the EM waves is called a photon, represents the quanta of light. When a wave of light is transformed and absorbed as a photon, the energy of the wave collapses to a single location, this location is where the photon "arrives."
This is. This dual wave-like and particle-like nature of light is known as the wave–particle duality; the study of light, known as optics, is an important research area in modern physics. EM radiation, or EMR, is classified by wavelength into radio waves, infrared, the visible spectrum that we perceive as light, ultraviolet, X-rays, gamma rays; the behavior of EMR depends on its wavelength. Higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, lower frequencies have longer wavelengths; when EMR interacts with single atoms and molecules, its behavior depends on the amount of energy per quantum it carries. EMR in the visible light region consists of quanta that are at the lower end of the energies that are capable of causing electronic excitation within molecules, which leads to changes in the bonding or chemistry of the molecule. At the lower end of the visible light spectrum, EMR becomes invisible to humans because its photons no longer have enough individual energy to cause a lasting molecular change in the visual molecule retinal in the human retina, which change triggers the sensation of vision.
There exist animals that are sensitive to various types of infrared, but not by means of quantum-absorption. Infrared sensing in snakes depends on a kind of natural thermal imaging, in which tiny packets of cellular water are raised in temperature by the infrared radiation. EMR in this range causes molecular vibration and heating effects, how these animals detect it. Above the range of visible light, ultraviolet light becomes invisible to humans because it is absorbed by the cornea below 360 nm and the internal lens below 400 nm. Furthermore, the rods and cones located in the retina of the human eye cannot detect the short ultraviolet wavelengths and are in fact damaged by ultraviolet. Many animals with eyes that do not require lenses are able to detect ultraviolet, by quantum photon-absorption mechanisms, in much the same chemical way that humans detect visible light. Various sources define visible light as narrowly as 420–680 nm to as broadly as 380–800 nm. Under ideal laboratory conditions, people can see infrared up to at least 1050 nm.
Plant growth is affected by the color spectrum of light, a process known as photomorphogenesis. The speed of light in a vacuum is defined to be 299,792,458 m/s; the fixed value of the speed of light in SI units results from the fact that the metre is now defined in terms of the speed of light. All forms of electromagnetic radiation move at this same speed in vacuum. Different physicists have attempted to measure the speed of light throughout history. Galileo attempted to measure the speed of light in the seventeenth century. An early experiment to measure the speed of light was conducted by Ole Rømer, a Danish physicist, in 1676. Using a telescope, Rømer observed one of its moons, Io. Noting discrepancies in the apparent period of Io's orbit, he calculated that light takes about 22 minutes to traverse the diameter of Earth's orbit. However, its size was not known at that time. If Rømer had known the diameter of the Earth's orbit, he would have calculated a speed of 227,000,000 m/s. Another, more accurate, measurement of the speed of light was performed in Europe by Hippolyte Fizeau in 1849.
Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more paths due to localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this includes deviation of reflected radiation from the angle predicted by the law of reflection. Reflections that undergo scattering are called diffuse reflections and unscattered reflections are called specular reflections. Scattering may refer to particle-particle collisions between molecules, electrons and other particles. Examples include: cosmic ray scattering in the Earth's upper atmosphere; the types of non-uniformities which can cause scattering, sometimes known as scatterers or scattering centers, are too numerous to list, but a small sample includes particles, droplets, density fluctuations in fluids, crystallites in polycrystalline solids, defects in monocrystalline solids, surface roughness, cells in organisms, textile fibers in clothing.
The effects of such features on the path of any type of propagating wave or moving particle can be described in the framework of scattering theory. Some areas where scattering and scattering theory are significant include radar sensing, medical ultrasound, semiconductor wafer inspection, polymerization process monitoring, acoustic tiling, free-space communications and computer-generated imagery. Particle-particle scattering theory is important in areas such as particle physics, atomic and optical physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics; when radiation is only scattered by one localized scattering center, this is called single scattering. It is common that scattering centers are grouped together; the main difference between the effects of single and multiple scattering is that single scattering can be treated as a random phenomenon, whereas multiple scattering, somewhat counterintuitively, can be modeled as a more deterministic process because the combined results of a large number of scattering events tend to average out.
Multiple scattering can thus be modeled well with diffusion theory. Because the location of a single scattering center is not well known relative to the path of the radiation, the outcome, which tends to depend on the exact incoming trajectory, appears random to an observer; this type of scattering would be exemplified by an electron being fired at an atomic nucleus. In this case, the atom's exact position relative to the path of the electron is unknown and would be unmeasurable, so the exact trajectory of the electron after the collision cannot be predicted. Single scattering is therefore described by probability distributions. With multiple scattering, the randomness of the interaction tends to be averaged out by a large number of scattering events, so that the final path of the radiation appears to be a deterministic distribution of intensity; this is exemplified by a light beam passing through thick fog. Multiple scattering is analogous to diffusion, the terms multiple scattering and diffusion are interchangeable in many contexts.
Optical elements designed to produce multiple scattering are thus known as diffusers. Coherent backscattering, an enhancement of backscattering that occurs when coherent radiation is multiply scattered by a random medium, is attributed to weak localization. Not all single scattering is random, however. A well-controlled laser beam can be positioned to scatter off a microscopic particle with a deterministic outcome, for instance; such situations are encountered in radar scattering as well, where the targets tend to be macroscopic objects such as people or aircraft. Multiple scattering can sometimes have somewhat random outcomes with coherent radiation; the random fluctuations in the multiply scattered intensity of coherent radiation are called speckles. Speckle occurs if multiple parts of a coherent wave scatter from different centers. In certain rare circumstances, multiple scattering may only involve a small number of interactions such that the randomness is not averaged out; these systems are considered to be some of the most difficult to model accurately.
The description of scattering and the distinction between single and multiple scattering are related to wave–particle duality. Scattering theory is a framework for studying and understanding the scattering of waves and particles. Prosaically, wave scattering corresponds to the collision and scattering of a wave with some material object, for instance sunlight scattered by rain drops to form a rainbow. Scattering includes the interaction of billiard balls on a table, the Rutherford scattering of alpha particles by gold nuclei, the Bragg scattering of electrons and X-rays by a cluster of atoms, the inelastic scattering of a fission fragment as it traverses a thin foil. More scattering consists of the study of how solutions of partial differential equations, propagating "in the distant past", come together and interact with one another or with a boundary condition, propagate away "to the distant future". Electromagnetic waves are one of the best known and most encountered forms of radiation that undergo scattering.
Scattering of light and radio waves is important. Several different aspects of electromagnetic scattering are distinct enough to have conventional names. Major forms of elastic light scattering (involving neg
In optics, dispersion is the phenomenon in which the phase velocity of a wave depends on its frequency. Media having this common property may be termed dispersive media. Sometimes the term chromatic dispersion is used for specificity. Although the term is used in the field of optics to describe light and other electromagnetic waves, dispersion in the same sense can apply to any sort of wave motion such as acoustic dispersion in the case of sound and seismic waves, in gravity waves, for telecommunication signals along transmission lines or optical fiber. In optics, one important and familiar consequence of dispersion is the change in the angle of refraction of different colors of light, as seen in the spectrum produced by a dispersive prism and in chromatic aberration of lenses. Design of compound achromatic lenses, in which chromatic aberration is cancelled, uses a quantification of a glass's dispersion given by its Abbe number V, where lower Abbe numbers correspond to greater dispersion over the visible spectrum.
In some applications such as telecommunications, the absolute phase of a wave is not important but only the propagation of wave packets or "pulses". The most familiar example of dispersion is a rainbow, in which dispersion causes the spatial separation of a white light into components of different wavelengths. However, dispersion has an effect in many other circumstances: for example, group velocity dispersion causes pulses to spread in optical fibers, degrading signals over long distances. Most chromatic dispersion refers to bulk material dispersion, that is, the change in refractive index with optical frequency. However, in a waveguide there is the phenomenon of waveguide dispersion, in which case a wave's phase velocity in a structure depends on its frequency due to the structure's geometry. More "waveguide" dispersion can occur for waves propagating through any inhomogeneous structure, whether or not the waves are confined to some region. In a waveguide, both types of dispersion will be present, although they are not additive.
For example, in fiber optics the material and waveguide dispersion can cancel each other out to produce a zero-dispersion wavelength, important for fast fiber-optic communication. Material dispersion can be a desirable or undesirable effect in optical applications; the dispersion of light by glass prisms is used to construct spectrometers and spectroradiometers. Holographic gratings are used, as they allow more accurate discrimination of wavelengths. However, in lenses, dispersion causes chromatic aberration, an undesired effect that may degrade images in microscopes and photographic objectives; the phase velocity, v, of a wave in a given uniform medium is given by v = c n where c is the speed of light in a vacuum and n is the refractive index of the medium. In general, the refractive index is some function of the frequency f of the light, thus n = n, or alternatively, with respect to the wave's wavelength n = n; the wavelength dependence of a material's refractive index is quantified by its Abbe number or its coefficients in an empirical formula such as the Cauchy or Sellmeier equations.
Because of the Kramers–Kronig relations, the wavelength dependence of the real part of the refractive index is related to the material absorption, described by the imaginary part of the refractive index. In particular, for non-magnetic materials, the susceptibility χ that appears in the Kramers–Kronig relations is the electric susceptibility χe = n2 − 1; the most seen consequence of dispersion in optics is the separation of white light into a color spectrum by a prism. From Snell's law it can be seen that the angle of refraction of light in a prism depends on the refractive index of the prism material. Since that refractive index varies with wavelength, it follows that the angle that the light is refracted by will vary with wavelength, causing an angular separation of the colors known as angular dispersion. For visible light, refraction indices n of most transparent materials decrease with increasing wavelength λ: 1 < n < n < n, or alternatively: d n d λ < 0. In this case, the medium is said to have normal dispersion.
Whereas, if the index increases with increasing wavelength, the medium is said to have anomalous dispersion. At the interface of such a material with air or vacuum, Snell's law predicts that light incident at an angle θ to the normal will be refracted at an angle arcsin. Thus, blue light, with a higher refractive index, will be bent more than red light, resulting in the well-known rainbow pattern. Another consequence of dispersion manifests itself as a temporal effect; the formula v = c/n calculates the
Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, messages, writings and sounds or information of any nature by wire, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology, it is transmitted either electrically over physical media, such as cables, or via electromagnetic radiation. Such transmission paths are divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies. Early means of communicating over a distance included visual signals, such as beacons, smoke signals, semaphore telegraphs, signal flags, optical heliographs. Other examples of pre-modern long-distance communication included audio messages such as coded drumbeats, lung-blown horns, loud whistles. 20th- and 21st-century technologies for long-distance communication involve electrical and electromagnetic technologies, such as telegraph and teleprinter, radio, microwave transmission, fiber optics, communications satellites.
A revolution in wireless communication began in the first decade of the 20th century with the pioneering developments in radio communications by Guglielmo Marconi, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1909, other notable pioneering inventors and developers in the field of electrical and electronic telecommunications. These included Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, Edwin Armstrong and Lee de Forest, as well as Vladimir K. Zworykin, John Logie Baird and Philo Farnsworth; the word telecommunication is a compound of the Greek prefix tele, meaning distant, far off, or afar, the Latin communicare, meaning to share. Its modern use is adapted from the French, because its written use was recorded in 1904 by the French engineer and novelist Édouard Estaunié. Communication was first used as an English word in the late 14th century, it comes from Old French comunicacion, from Latin communicationem, noun of action from past participle stem of communicare "to share, divide out.
Homing pigeons have been used throughout history by different cultures. Pigeon post had Persian roots, was used by the Romans to aid their military. Frontinus said; the Greeks conveyed the names of the victors at the Olympic Games to various cities using homing pigeons. In the early 19th century, the Dutch government used the system in Sumatra, and in 1849, Paul Julius Reuter started a pigeon service to fly stock prices between Aachen and Brussels, a service that operated for a year until the gap in the telegraph link was closed. In the Middle Ages, chains of beacons were used on hilltops as a means of relaying a signal. Beacon chains suffered the drawback that they could only pass a single bit of information, so the meaning of the message such as "the enemy has been sighted" had to be agreed upon in advance. One notable instance of their use was during the Spanish Armada, when a beacon chain relayed a signal from Plymouth to London. In 1792, Claude Chappe, a French engineer, built the first fixed visual telegraphy system between Lille and Paris.
However semaphore suffered from the need for skilled operators and expensive towers at intervals of ten to thirty kilometres. As a result of competition from the electrical telegraph, the last commercial line was abandoned in 1880. On 25 July 1837 the first commercial electrical telegraph was demonstrated by English inventor Sir William Fothergill Cooke, English scientist Sir Charles Wheatstone. Both inventors viewed their device as "an improvement to the electromagnetic telegraph" not as a new device. Samuel Morse independently developed a version of the electrical telegraph that he unsuccessfully demonstrated on 2 September 1837, his code was an important advance over Wheatstone's signaling method. The first transatlantic telegraph cable was completed on 27 July 1866, allowing transatlantic telecommunication for the first time; the conventional telephone was invented independently by Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray in 1876. Antonio Meucci invented the first device that allowed the electrical transmission of voice over a line in 1849.
However Meucci's device was of little practical value because it relied upon the electrophonic effect and thus required users to place the receiver in their mouth to "hear" what was being said. The first commercial telephone services were set-up in 1878 and 1879 on both sides of the Atlantic in the cities of New Haven and London. Starting in 1894, Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi began developing a wireless communication using the newly discovered phenomenon of radio waves, showing by 1901 that they could be transmitted across the Atlantic Ocean; this was the start of wireless telegraphy by radio. Voice and music had little early success. World War I accelerated the development of radio for military communications. After the war, commercial radio AM broadcasting began in the 1920s and became an important mass medium for entertainment and news. World War II again accelerated development of radio for the wartime purposes of aircraft and land communication, radio navigation and radar. Development of stereo FM broadcasting of radio
Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum denoted c, is a universal physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its exact value is 299,792,458 metres per second, it is exact because by international agreement a metre is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 second. According to special relativity, c is the maximum speed at which all conventional matter and hence all known forms of information in the universe can travel. Though this speed is most associated with light, it is in fact the speed at which all massless particles and changes of the associated fields travel in vacuum; such particles and waves travel at c regardless of the motion of the source or the inertial reference frame of the observer. In the special and general theories of relativity, c interrelates space and time, appears in the famous equation of mass–energy equivalence E = mc2; the speed at which light propagates through transparent materials, such as glass or air, is less than c.
The ratio between c and the speed v at which light travels in a material is called the refractive index n of the material. For example, for visible light the refractive index of glass is around 1.5, meaning that light in glass travels at c / 1.5 ≈ 200,000 km/s. For many practical purposes and other electromagnetic waves will appear to propagate instantaneously, but for long distances and sensitive measurements, their finite speed has noticeable effects. In communicating with distant space probes, it can take minutes to hours for a message to get from Earth to the spacecraft, or vice versa; the light seen from stars left them many years ago, allowing the study of the history of the universe by looking at distant objects. The finite speed of light limits the theoretical maximum speed of computers, since information must be sent within the computer from chip to chip; the speed of light can be used with time of flight measurements to measure large distances to high precision. Ole Rømer first demonstrated in 1676 that light travels at a finite speed by studying the apparent motion of Jupiter's moon Io.
In 1865, James Clerk Maxwell proposed that light was an electromagnetic wave, therefore travelled at the speed c appearing in his theory of electromagnetism. In 1905, Albert Einstein postulated that the speed of light c with respect to any inertial frame is a constant and is independent of the motion of the light source, he explored the consequences of that postulate by deriving the theory of relativity and in doing so showed that the parameter c had relevance outside of the context of light and electromagnetism. After centuries of precise measurements, in 1975 the speed of light was known to be 299792458 m/s with a measurement uncertainty of 4 parts per billion. In 1983, the metre was redefined in the International System of Units as the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second; the speed of light in vacuum is denoted by a lowercase c, for "constant" or the Latin celeritas. In 1856, Wilhelm Eduard Weber and Rudolf Kohlrausch had used c for a different constant shown to equal √2 times the speed of light in vacuum.
The symbol V was used as an alternative symbol for the speed of light, introduced by James Clerk Maxwell in 1865. In 1894, Paul Drude redefined c with its modern meaning. Einstein used V in his original German-language papers on special relativity in 1905, but in 1907 he switched to c, which by had become the standard symbol for the speed of light. Sometimes c is used for the speed of waves in any material medium, c0 for the speed of light in vacuum; this subscripted notation, endorsed in official SI literature, has the same form as other related constants: namely, μ0 for the vacuum permeability or magnetic constant, ε0 for the vacuum permittivity or electric constant, Z0 for the impedance of free space. This article uses c for the speed of light in vacuum. Since 1983, the metre has been defined in the International System of Units as the distance light travels in vacuum in 1⁄299792458 of a second; this definition fixes the speed of light in vacuum at 299,792,458 m/s. As a dimensional physical constant, the numerical value of c is different for different unit systems.
In branches of physics in which c appears such as in relativity, it is common to use systems of natural units of measurement or the geometrized unit system where c = 1. Using these units, c does not appear explicitly because multiplication or division by 1 does not affect the result; the speed at which light waves propagate in vacuum is independent both of the motion of the wave source and of the inertial frame of reference of the observer. This invariance of the speed of light was postulated by Einstein in 1905, after being motivated by Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism and the lack of evidence for the luminiferous aether, it is only possible to verify experimentally that the two-way speed of light is frame-independent, because it is impossible to measure the one-way speed of light without some convention as to how clocks at the source and at the detector should be synchronized. However