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

What happens to an electron when a photon is reflected?

  1. Jan 4, 2012 #1
    I understand that reflection of light involves absorption of the incoming photons and emission of new photons. But what happens on a quantum level that enables an electron to emit a photon at an angle of reflection that is equal to the absorbed photon's angle of incidence? If the incoming photon were to bounce off the electron, then everything makes sense. But, if I understand reflection correctly, the incoming photon is absorbed and a new photon is emitted. What is happening?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 4, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    It doesn't. The law of reflection is the result of interference of a large number of photon wave-packets ... it is not a quantum-mechanical effect. It only happens on average.

    Feynman got quite good at explaining it

    ... 2&3/7 - worth seeing them all.
    part 2 covers the basic concepts, part 3 derives the law of reflection
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Jan 4, 2012 #3
    The videos are perfect - thanks!
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook