Are Photons Massless or Massive?


Prevailing and conventional wisdom as drawn from both Professor Albert Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity (STR) and our palatable experience, holds that photons are massless particles and that, every particle that travels at the speed of light must—accordingly, be massless. Amongst other important but now resolved problems in physics, this assumption led to the Neutrino Mass Problem—namely, “Do neutrinos have mass?” Neutrinos appear very strongly to travel at the speed of light and according to the afore-stated, they must be massless. Massless neutrinos have a problem in that one is unable to explain the phenomenon of neutrino oscillations because this requires massive neutrinos. Experiments appear to strongly suggest that indeed, neutrinos most certainly are massive particles. While this solves the problem of neutrino oscillation, it directly leads to another problem, namely that of “How can a massive particle travel at the speed of light? Is not this speed a preserve and prerogative of only massless particles?” We argue herein that in principle, it is possible for massive particles to travel at the speed of light. In presenting the present letter, our hope is that this may aid or contribute significantly in solving the said problem of “How can massive particles travel at the speed of light?”

Share and Cite:

Nyambuya, G. (2014) Are Photons Massless or Massive?. Journal of Modern Physics, 5, 2111-2124. doi: 10.4236/jmp.2014.518207.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] Hojman, S.A. and Koch, B. (2013) Closing the Window for Massive Photons. arXiv:1209.4907v2.
[2] Burman, R. (1972) A Photon Rest Mass and Energy Transport in Cold Plasmas. Journal of Physics A: General Physics, 5, L128.
[3] Burman, R. (1973) A Photon Rest Mass and the Propagation of Longitudinal Electric Waves in Interstellar and Intergalactic Space. Journal of Physics A: Mathematical, Nuclear and General, 6, 434.
[4] Goldhaber, A.S. and Nieto, M.M. (1971) Terrestrial and Extraterrestrial Limits on The Photon Mass. Reviews of Modern Physics, 43, 277-296.
[5] Goldhaber, A.S. and Nieto, M.M. (2010) Photon and Graviton Mass Limits. Reviews of Modern Physics, 82, 939-979.
[6] Tu, L.-C., Luo, J. and Gillies, G.T. (2005) The Mass of the Photon. Reports on Progress in Physics, 68, 77.
[7] Chibisov, G.V. (1976) Astrophysical Upper Limits on the Photon Rest Mass. Soviet Physics Uspekhi, 19, 624.
[8] Davis, L., Goldhaber, A.S. and Nieto, M.M. (1975) Limit on the Photon Mass Deduced from Pioneer-10 Observations of Jupiter’s Magnetic Field. Physical Review Letters, 35, 1402-1405.
[9] Goldhaber, A.S. and Nieto, M.M. (1971) How to Catch a Photon and Measure Its Mass. Physical Review Letters, 26, 1390-1392.
[10] Einstein, A. (1905) über einen die Erzeugung und Verwandlung des Lichtes betreffenden heuristischen Gesichtspunkt. Annalen der Physik, 322, 132-148.
[11] Amsler, C., Particle Data Group (2008) Physics Letters, B667.
[12] Schwartz, H.M. (1977) American Journal of Physics, 45, 512-517.
[13] Nyambuya, G.G. and Simango, W. (2014) International Journal of Astronomy and Astrophysics, 4, 250-263.
[14] Nyambuya, G.G. (2013) Journal of Modern Physics, 4, 1050-1058.
[15] Nyambuya, G.G. (2009) Apeiron, 16, 516-531.
[16] Nyambuya, G.G. (2008) Foundations of Physics, 38, 665-677.
[17] Dirac, P.A.M. (1928) Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 117, 610-624.
[18] Dirac, P.A.M. (1928) Proceedings of the Royal Society A, 118, 351-361.
[19] Klebesadel, R.W., Strong, I.B. and Olson, R.A. (1973) Astrophysical Journal, 182, L85.
[20] Nyambuya, G.G. (2014) Journal of Modern Physics, 5, 1902-1909.

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.