Quantum photon?

1. Jun 15, 2004

jack47

I was just thinking how photons fit into QM, I've heard people speak of "photon wavefunctions".

In particular I am wondering whether its bound by the Uncertainty priciple, I guess it cant be... since we know its exact velocity (i.e delta(x) = 0, at least in a 1-d case =P) how could we know its position?

2. Jun 15, 2004

Staff Emeritus
Exactly. Where along a beam of light, is an individual photon? You don't know; you can't know; it's uncertain.

The photon is a full-fledged quantum particle, uncertainty and all.

3. Jun 18, 2004

Goalie_Ca

If we don't know its position then what is it we observe? Naturally it takes a certain amount of time for some light to travel from point a to point b. Can't we place a limit on its path or general area (somewhere between a and b, thus finite area).

Does this help to explain the young's double slit experiment at all???

Sorry if these questions sound silly. I'm just a 2nd year electrical/computer engineering student with lots of questions and few answers :D

4. Jun 18, 2004

techwonder

Actually, the speed of a photon is not THAT well defined in QM as it is SR and GR. In QED photons have a finite possibility to go slower or faster than c - on short distances.

5. Jun 18, 2004

hellfire

I thought a causality condition is imposed in QFT, which makes FTL propagation impossible for real photons.

6. Jun 18, 2004

swansont

The uncertainty principle contains a momentum term, not a velocity term. A photon's momentum is E/c.

7. Jun 18, 2004

TeV

Interactions.

8. Jun 18, 2004

turin

If you do the double slit experiment, for instance, with just one photon at a time (that is, an extremely low intensity for which you would notice the time between the appearance of spots), then do the spots show up on the screen with a uniform frequency, or do they show up erratically?

9. Jun 21, 2004

Magg\$

What are you talking about!

Photons have quantum behavior, yes... But it is definately impossible to talk about the position of a photon, as its movement, due it behaving like quantum, is completley random!!!

10. Jun 21, 2004

Dina-Moe Hum

They will form interference pattern anyway, unless you try to locate these photons during their journey to the target. As long as you don't interfere with the process they "pass through both slits" and they interfere with themselves

11. Jun 21, 2004

turin

Sorry, perhaps I was unclear. The (reworded) question is:

Do they have a reqular occurance (let's say one blip every second, give or take only a few milliseconds), or do they occur erratically (like one a few milliseconds after the previous, and then maybe two or three seconds until the next one, and then half a second until the next one, and then one second, and then a hundred milliseconds, etc.. All of these dead times may average out to one second, but there is a high degree of uncertainty that the next blip will occur within some window of time)?

I'm asking about a temporal measure, not a spatial measure.

I have never done the double slit experiment with such a low intensity or sensitive detector. I would like to here from someone who has. Judging from the silence, I suppose I'll have to go look up a paper or something.

Last edited: Jun 21, 2004
12. Jun 21, 2004

chroot

Staff Emeritus
No, it's not random. Photons move according to well-understood and very predictable, though probabilistic, rules.

- Warren

13. Jun 22, 2004

Chronos

a single photon can pass through both slits at the same time. even more mysterious is that a single electron can too!

14. Jun 25, 2004

jtolliver

swansont was right, it is impossible to know the position and momentum(not velocity) at the same time. In classical physics this can be simplified by the formula p=mv to say that you can't know the position and velocity at the same time. For the photon you can't use the formula p=mv(which is of course not lorentz invariant). However you can say that it is impossible to know the photons position and wavelength at the same time.

15. Jun 25, 2004

Tyger

Don't forget that the two transverse degrees of freedom and the longitudinal degree of freedom are independent and uncertainty applies to all of them.

16. Jun 25, 2004

Imparcticle

If a photon did go slower than c, then what would happen to it?

Have you heard of a light clock? A single photon is reflected and directed on various paths and the time it takes for it to finish the path is equal to one second, I believe. Isn't its position then able to be determined when it reaches the end of its path at the end of one second?

17. Jun 26, 2004