From a photon’s point of view, it is emitted and then instantaneously reabsorbed. This is true for a photon emitted in the core of the Sun, which might be reabsorbed after crossing a fraction of a millimetre’s distance. And it is equally true for a photon that, from our point of view, has travelled for over 13 billion years after being emitted from the surface of one of the universe’s first stars.
So it seems that not only does a photon not experience the passage of time, it does not experience the passage of distance either. But since you can’t move a massless consciousness at the speed of light in a vacuum, the real point of this thought experiment is to indicate that time and distance are just two apparently different aspects of the same thing.
If we attempt to achieve the speed of light, our clocks will slow relative to our point of origin and we will arrive at our destination quicker that we anticipate that we should – as though both the travel time and the distance have contracted.
Similarly, as we approach the surface of a massive object, our clocks will slow relative to a point of higher altitude – and we will arrive at the surface quicker than we might anticipate, as though time and distance contract progressively as we approach the surface.
Again, time and distance are just two aspects of the same thing, space-time, but we struggle to visualise this. We have evolved to see the world in snapshot moments, perhaps because a failure to scan the environment with every step we take might leave us open to attack by a predator.
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