1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Does light bend due to gravitational tides?

  1. Jun 1, 2015 #1
    I was wondering if the way that light vibrates causes it to bend slightly while moving around an object with extreme mass (on top of the bend caused by relativity.) I was drawing what I thought the path of a photon should be around a massive object, but the uncertainty principal bugged me. Am I correct that a photon can be in any location along it's wave function? I imagine a photon like a rubber band, constantly stretching and snapping back at it's frequency and magnitude depending on it's energy.

    So if I draw the path as a sine-wave with it's average path being a straight line in the middle of it, the crests of the sine wave are closer to the massive object than the troths. Wouldn't this cause a tidal gravity effect that would be detectable above the bending caused by relativity, and the size of the wave would cause larger waves like radio to be bent more than high energy waves? Or does the photon act as though it's precisely on it's mean trajectory?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 1, 2015 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Although light is often drawn as if it were a transverse wave, even in the classical description, it is not one. Nor does a photon vibrate from side to side.
  4. Jun 1, 2015 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

  5. Jun 1, 2015 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The sine waves are graphical representations of the strength and directions of the magnetic and electric field vectors associated with an EM wave. In other words, the sine waves tell you which direction the force from each component points and how strong it is at any point in time. A photon does not move in a squiggly, sine wave pattern. You can't really associate a path with a photon anyways, but that gets into some complicated quantum physics. I recommend sticking to classical EM waves and not trying to figure out what a photon will do.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook