Does light follow a helical path ?

  1. 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. jcsd
  3. DaleSpam

    Staff: Mentor

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

    HallsofIvy 40,218
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    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".
     
  5. Nugatory

    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.
     
  6. DaleSpam

    Staff: Mentor

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