# Wave: Probabilistic wave or physical wave?

• neurocomp2003
In summary, the conversation discusses the concept of the wave nature of light and its different interpretations. One interpretation is that it refers to the classical understanding of light as an electromagnetic wave, while the other interpretation is that it refers to the "wave-function" in quantum mechanics, which exists in phase space rather than physical space. The conversation also clarifies that there is no physical wave or medium for transmission in the case of light, instead it is a set of electric and magnetic fields that obey the same equations as a vibrating string.
neurocomp2003
Hi,
I keep debating an argument with a buddy of mine.
And I've come to teh conclusion that I'm not sure what WAVE natur of light refers to.

[]Does it refer to teh Quantum Terminology(found in griffiths for shro. eq'n) which is WAVE = Probabilitic Location of Particle.

OR
[]Does it refer to a physicsal existence of a wave like vibrating a string

There is no physical wave - there is no medium for transmission (19th century physics postulated ether for this purpose - it doesn't exist). QED (book) by Richard Feynman gives as good a description of what's going on as any.

The wave nature of light is classical. It refers to the fact that light is an electromagnetic wave, i.e. an oscillating electric field and magnetic field. See http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/ElectromagneticWave.html and notice how the first two equations represent progressive waves. This java applet shows this wonderfully: http://www.phy.ntnu.edu.tw/java/emWave/emWave.html

Last edited by a moderator:
The so called "wave-function" in quantum mechanics is not a physical wave, because it exists in phase space rather than physical space. For instance, for two particles, the wave function exists in a 6-dimensional space.

Classically, light is a wave because the electric and magnetic fields of which it is composed both obey the wave equation.

So the second answer is perhaps the closest to being correct, except that it should be understood that there is no physical "string" vibrating to transmit a light wave, instead there is simply a set of electric and magnetic fields that obey the same equations that a vibrating string obeys.

## 1. What is the difference between a probabilistic wave and a physical wave?

A probabilistic wave is a mathematical model used to describe the probability of an event occurring over time or space, while a physical wave is a disturbance that carries energy through a medium. Probabilistic waves do not physically exist, while physical waves can be observed and measured.

## 2. How are probabilistic waves used in science?

Probabilistic waves are used in a variety of scientific fields, including quantum mechanics, statistics, and weather forecasting. They help scientists make predictions and understand the likelihood of certain events occurring.

## 3. What factors affect the behavior of a physical wave?

The behavior of a physical wave is affected by several factors, including the medium through which it travels, the amplitude, wavelength, and frequency of the wave, and any obstacles or boundaries it encounters.

## 4. Can physical waves be measured and quantified?

Yes, physical waves can be measured and quantified using various instruments, such as rulers, oscilloscopes, and spectrometers. Scientists use these measurements to study the properties and behavior of waves.

## 5. What is the relationship between probability and physical waves?

Probability and physical waves are connected through the concept of wave-particle duality in quantum mechanics. Physicists use wave functions, which are probabilistic waves, to describe the behavior of subatomic particles. This shows that physical waves can have both particle-like and wave-like properties.

• Other Physics Topics
Replies
41
Views
14K
• Other Physics Topics
Replies
3
Views
2K
• Classical Physics
Replies
42
Views
2K
• Quantum Physics
Replies
11
Views
878
• Quantum Physics
Replies
2
Views
1K
• Other Physics Topics
Replies
14
Views
2K
• Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
16
Views
2K
• Introductory Physics Homework Help
Replies
1
Views
996
• General Discussion
Replies
190
Views
9K
• Quantum Physics
Replies
7
Views
1K