# Does light follow a helical path ?

1. Sep 9, 2013

### shiveeshfoteda

as the Electric field is perpendicular to magnetic field , would the over all sum of the sinusoidal waves would turn up to be a helical shape ?

2. Sep 9, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

It sounds like you are talking about circular polarization. Yes, you can have circular polarized light.

3. Sep 9, 2013

### HallsofIvy

Staff Emeritus
But "circularly polarized" means that the "intensity vector" of the light wave describes a helix around the path of the light. Light does NOT "follow a helical path".

4. Sep 9, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

No.

Those diagrams you see, in which the E and the B field are both sinusoidal curves oriented perpendicular to the direction of movement, can be very confusing. They aren't pictures/illustrations and nothing is moving sideways - they're just graphs that allow you to read off the magnitude and direction of the field at a particular point.

The light wave (in the simplest case of a plane wave, which is what those diagrams are describing) is a plane wave. If the wave is travelling in the +x direction, then for every point in any plane of constant x (and varying y and z values) at any given time the direction and magnitude of the E field will be the same and will vary sinusoidally over time; and likewise for the B field.

5. Sep 9, 2013

### Staff: Mentor

Yes, perhaps I was over-interpreting the OP. The polarization describes the orientation of the fields, not the path.