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Maxwell's or Schrodinger's Light Wave

  1. Aug 18, 2011 #1
    In attempting to explain QT to interested students, it seems like light waves in the double-slit experiment, and in the Three Polarizer Paradox seem "mixed-up" about whether you are dealing with one of Maxwell's waves, or one of Schrodinger's waves. Which is it?-And how can we know? Einstein called the waves of Schrodinger's equation "A ghost field" since they are probability waves. Please explain this apparent confusion between the real wave and the ghost wave.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2011 #2


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    I'm just a student that didn't even take QM yet. My thoughts: The double slit phenomena can both be explained by classical physics (what you call Maswell's waves) and QM (what you call Schrodinger's waves). Both models predict accurate results so both are a valid way to explain the double slits experiment.
  4. Aug 19, 2011 #3
    The problem with using Maxwell's equations for a single photon or a small collection of single photons interacting with a small collection of molecules in the polarizers or barrier is that to get accurate solutions you need an accurate model of the charges. In smaller and smaller spaces a point model for the charge becomes less and less accurate apparently. A more accurate model for a charge probably requires a 3D spatial extension and a consideration of how energy flows around and is affected by the charge.

    Schrödinger's equation could be interpreted as makeshift model or workaround for the lack of detailed information about how the charge looks and behaves interacting with other particles or energy.
  5. Aug 19, 2011 #4
    Schrodingers equation is induced from the results so its really more of a its maths stupid! Answer to the light spectra.
  6. Aug 19, 2011 #5


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    Maxwell's waves are useful in a lot of situations and can be used to calculate the interference pattern in the double-slit experiment and the light intensity in the Three Polariser 'Paradox'.

    There is no actual paradox, because Maxwell's equations correctly predict the light intensity. I think the reason it is called a paradox is because it seems non-intuitive.

    Quantum mechanics also correctly predicts the interference pattern of the double-slit experiment and the intensity in the Three Polariser experiment.

    So the classical equation gives the same answer as the quantum equations. This is because the experiments are within the classical limit. As soon as we start talking about single photons, we leave the classical limit. For example, maxwell's waves don't explain the photoelectric effect.
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