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A question from a novice

  1. Jun 16, 2004 #1
    Propagation of light?

    Novice to physics:
    I am have been attempting to visualize the propagation of light for sometime now, without very much success. I understand the orthogonally oscillating electric and magnetic fields, but I just can’t visualize where the mass less photon fits into the orthogonal fields picture. I guess the duality of wave / particle is attributing to my confusion. I am as well confused about how this propagation acquires its velocity or for that matter, what causes these fields to push forward. If the propagation is in some medium I seem to grasp the concepts, where the excited fields tend to ripple through similar to the domino effect causing excitation in the atoms in its path, but in a vacuum I end up totally confused about this phenomena. I can see easily why the belief in the ether was so profound. Could any one shed some light on the visualization of the propagation of light for me?
    Much thanks for any assistance,
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 16, 2004 #2


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    Try reading QED by Richard Feynman. It is as clear a discussion of quantum mechanics for non-experts as you can find. It goes into much detail as to the nature fo light, etc.
  4. Jun 17, 2004 #3
    This is where you are going wrong... you CAN'T visualise many basic phenomena in Physics. You have to learn what happens, and just accept it!!

    Visualising photon wave/particle duality (never mind quantum entanglement, uncertainty Principle etc) is just not 'do-able'.

    QED is indeed a great book to help you understand the interaction and behaviour of photons....
  5. Jun 17, 2004 #4
    Thank you

    Thank you both for your response and your time. I will pick up this book and proceed from there.
  6. Jun 18, 2004 #5


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    Better yet, if you are motivated enough, I would recommend picking up a good undergraduate text on Electricity and Magnetism(I personally would recommend Tipler, but everyone has their own personal opinions) and studying the fundamentals in order to gain a lasting grasp on the subject. You can read all the layman's books you want, but to get any real depth on how light works, you need to start from the basics.
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