Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Just how large is a photon?

  1. Dec 9, 2009 #1
    A high-energy photon needs a smaller aperture to get down to its limit of resolution. Conversely, a radio wave needs an enormous aperture if it is to go through it (an RF waveguide, eg, is like 3"x7").
    So what exactly is the size of the photon? Since they're created in atoms, I'd think they're about the size of an atom, maybe smaller. Interesting, since an atom can generate an RF wave that can't even fit in something smaller than a waveguide, whereas another atom can generate a photon that has no problem entering a 600 nm aperture...
    A ridiculous question, I know, but valid nonetheless.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 9, 2009 #2
    How large is a wave on the pond?
  4. Dec 9, 2009 #3
    Photons are pointparticles in QM, they have no spatial extension, just as electrons, quarks and force carrier bosons.
  5. Dec 9, 2009 #4
    Schwarzschild radius?
  6. Dec 9, 2009 #5
    mass = 0...
  7. Dec 9, 2009 #6
    Energy != 0.
  8. Dec 9, 2009 #7
    scharchild radius is not related to "physical" radius (whatever that is...)
  9. Dec 9, 2009 #8
    How comes? Schwarzschild radius is a real radius in the real space.
  10. Dec 9, 2009 #9
    Can you explain to me what the Schwarzschild radius is? The earth has a radius differnt than it's density distribution radius (which is what we commonly call "size")
  11. Dec 9, 2009 #10
    Er.. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwarzschild_radius
    For an electron it is a lot smaller compared to the Plank's length. Still, it is better, compared to the point!
  12. Dec 9, 2009 #11
    The original question was "what exactly is the size of the photon", it can be reformulated - "in how small volume can you 'squeeze' the photon", well, to do that you only need to throw it in the black hole. The resulting volume wouldn't be zero.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2009
  13. Dec 9, 2009 #12
    I know what it is, but you didn't seem to know it so I asked you to explain it.

    One can also use the "Classical electron radius" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_electron_radius) if one just wants a number, but the figure of interest is the radius for the matter distribution, not "Schwarzschild radius" etc.. and the radius asked for should be understood as the matter radius...
  14. Dec 9, 2009 #13
    AFAIK Schwarzschild radius sets a fundamental limit of how much mass/energy (information) you can pack in space. And it do set the lower limit on the size of the photon and electron.
  15. Dec 9, 2009 #14
    Can you say what the smallest size of a photon then, which has zero mass...
  16. Dec 9, 2009 #15
    In QM, it is a point particle.
    All speculations about the plank length, Schwarzschild radius etc require the Quantum Gravity theory which is not ready yet.
  17. Dec 9, 2009 #16
    that was supposed to be my next move! :D
  18. Dec 9, 2009 #17
    [tex]R_{s} = \frac{2Gh\nu}{c^{4}}[/tex]

    And just for the fun of it:
    [tex]A = 4\pi{R_{s}}^{2}[/tex],

    [tex]S = \frac{c^{3}A}{4 \hbar G} bits[/tex]
  19. Dec 9, 2009 #18
  20. Dec 9, 2009 #19
    Well, you are right of course. But I see nothing wrong in throwing an electron or a photon into a black hole and considering 'how small can it get there'.
  21. Dec 9, 2009 #20
    [tex]E = mc^{2} = h\nu[/tex]

    [tex]R_{s} = \frac{2Gm}{c^{2}}[/tex]

    [tex]R_{s} = \frac{2Gh\nu}{c^{4}}[/tex]
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook