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Behavior of light near a star

  1. Oct 17, 2013 #1
    I have an interesting question. I believe this would be the appropriate spot to post this as well.

    I understand that light is both a wave and a particle, or can be percieved as one or the other in specific circumstances, known as wave-particle duality.

    So my question is this, under such extreme gravitational forces near a star, how does light behave? In this kind of environment, is it a wave, or is it a particle, or both, or does it shift back and forth? Does it take on other properties or react to things differently?

    Here's the back story on this question. I was just watching a video talking about super-novas, and that when a star tries to combine other elements with iron, it becomes extremely volotile and unstable and explodes almost immediately. The energy output of a supernova is extremely massive. During such an event, does light itself become affected? If so...how? Is there any way that such an effect could possibly benefit mankind in the distant future?

    Just an interesting question and I didn't know anything about it so I figured I'd ask here.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 17, 2013 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    The best way to understand light without going into the details of quantum physics is that light travels as a wave but is detected in little chunks of energy we call photons. So it never changes between forms because there is only one "form", the one I just described.

    And no, supernovas have no effect on light like you're thinking. They just emit a lot of it.
  4. Oct 17, 2013 #3


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    Gold Member

    To expand just a bit on what Drakkith said, light is NOT a particle and a wave, it is neither one. It is a quantum object. It sometimes ACTS like a particle and sometimes like a wave but it is not either one, as I said.

    "wave-particle duality" is a deprecated term in modern physics because it leads to the exact misunderstanding that you have arrived at.
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