Wave / particle duality of light

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Homework Statement


I've just read that light can behave like a wave at times, and a particle at other times. How does the light from the Sun travelling towards Earth behave? A wave? A particle? Or both? And is it in any sense something that actually starts at the Sun, travels across space and ends up at the Earth; or is it more of a domino effect where something at the Sun causes a chain of effects between the Sun and Earth

Homework Equations



No relevant equations (that I'm aware of)

The Attempt at a Solution


When thinking of light as a wave I imagine a Mexican wave of people in a sports stadium where the wave propagates across the stadium by virtue of the people standing up and sitting down. In this scenario the people move up and down but their position doesn't vary (apart from moving up and down; they don't travel across the stadium).

But when thinking of it as a particle I imagine photons (discrete packets of light? quanta of light?) starting at the Sun and travelling across space in a stream so the first quantum of light (the first photon) that left the Sun is the first to arrive here and so on (?)

If anyone is kind enough to help me with this please keep the language very basic as I'm a novice. Thanks.[/B]
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Orodruin
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Insights Author
Gold Member
16,693
6,467
You should not think of photons as neither classical particles nor waves. They are quantum particles and have some properties that we typically would associate with a classical particle and some that we would typically associate with a wave - but that does not mean that they are sometimes one and other times the other. Depending on what you are observing, one or the other behavior can be dominant.
 
  • #3
495
293
Wave-particle duality is not a concept used in modern quantum theory.
 
  • #4
Lord Jestocost
Gold Member
532
360
To my mind, one should never think of a light beam as stream of particles travelling across space. Quantization of electromagnetic radiation means that the field energy can only be changed by integer numbers of „energy portions“ (called photons) of amount hν, where ν is light frequency and h Planck's constant.
 

Related Threads on Wave / particle duality of light

  • Last Post
Replies
15
Views
4K
Replies
2
Views
3K
Replies
194
Views
18K
Replies
9
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
16
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
21
Views
6K
  • Last Post
Replies
15
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
3
Views
2K
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
0
Views
2K
Top