“Snakes In a Box”

As a young kid my Uncles told me that my Grandfather had found two snakes eating each other.  Each had the other’s tail in its mouth.  He placed them in a secure box and when he opened the box the next day, it was empty.  The snakes had eaten each other!  Try as hard as I could, I could not visualize how it could have happened.  But it had to be true, my trusted Uncles had told me.  

I entered college with the same faith in my professors and encountered concepts, i.e. snakes in a box, such as the dual nature of light that I could not reconcile.  Later, an acquaintance asked: “Why do you think you are wrong and are just unable to grasp such foundational concepts?”  From that point my quest has become to understand: What is the structure of the Universe that makes our laws and theories useful?

Listed below are some “Snakes in a Box” for which Pivotal Concepts offers explanations.

  1. 1. Matter and energy are inter-convertible, i.e. E0 = m0c2.

2.  The speed of light c is independent of the relative motion of the source and observer.

3.  Light is both a wave and a particle – the dual nature of light.

4.  A light signal traveling in a vacuum at c undergoes a reduction in speed when it enters a transparent medium, but resumes the speed c upon exit back into the vacuum.

5.  Regardless of the intensity of a source, the velocity of energy released never exceeds c, and the electromagnetic radiation component from a source only occurs at c.   This requires that the mediation of energy may go from zero to c when radiation is emitted and vice versa when the absorption of radiation occurs.

6.  In the area of optics, signal transmission may be represented by rays, which may change directions, be divided, and recombined.

7.  When two rigid bodies collide, i.e. an elastic collision, equal quantities of momentum are exchanged.

              And snakes in the box? --- They were virtual quantum snakes of course!


I obtained a B.S. in chemistry from Duke University in 1961 and entered the Navy.  After four years in the Navy (two years in the Underwater Demolition Team) I returned to school at NCSU and got a Ph.D. in the area of Plant Physiology.  As a graduate student at NCSU, I had been trying to understand how enzymes lower the activation energies of reactions.  Then what became an obsessive question emerged.   What is energy?  Throughout my 23-year tenure at LSU and since, as a hobby, among the questions that have fascinated me are:  Why does matter possess relative movement?, How can a phenomenon have properties of both a wave and a particle?, How can the expression of energy go instantaneously from an apparent velocity of zero to c and vice versa?, What controls the energy switch?, What accounts for the constant value of c, regardless of the relative motion of the source and observer?, and Why should c represent a limiting velocity?

In 1994 my wife, who at the time worked with Ethyl Corporation, had her position with the company relocated from Baton Rouge, LA to Richmond, VA and she really wanted to move.  Although there were reservations about leaving the environs of a college campus, I felt my thoughts on energy had progressed to where in a short time, if I focused, I would have a theory ready for presentation.  What I thought would be a 2-year project, after I retired early from LSU, has lasted a “little” longer.