When are photons waves?

  • Thread starter thetexan
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

When the light from a distant star comes to our eyes...as the photons transverse the distance...are they traveling as a particle or as a wave? ie Are we being bombarded by millions of photon bullets or millions of waves?

tex
 

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  • #2
phinds
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Photons are not particles OR waves, they are quantum objects. If you test for them as particles (for example, with the retina of your eye) they will ACT like particles and if you test for them as waves they will ACT like waves, but thinking of them as one or the other leads to the kind of confusion you are having.
 
  • #3
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Are we being bombarded by millions of photon bullets or millions of waves?
It is not useful to think of quantum mechanical particles as though they were classical bullets nor as though they were classical waves. They are quantum particles, and quantum particles have quantum properties that are not effectively captured by either classical description.
 
  • #4
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Actually photon can be both a wave and a particle at the same time
Think of photon as a ice-cream cone,if you look at it in a angle it will look like a circle
But if you look at it in a different angle it will look kind of like a triangle shape( maybe a prism)
So when photon travel at the speed of light they are waves but when they interact with other sub-atomic particle they appear to be particle
 
  • #5
Nugatory
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Think of [STRIKE]photon[/STRIKE] light as a ice-cream cone,if you look at it in a angle it will look like a circle
But if you look at it in a different angle it will look kind of like a triangle shape( maybe a prism)
That's not a bad analogy (although I made a small correction above), but you're drawing the wrong conclusion from it:
Actually photon can be both a wave and a particle at the same time
Instead, you should say that light is neither a wave nor a particle, but depending on how you look at it, it will show either wave-like or particle-like properties.
 
  • #6
phinds
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Actually photon can be both a wave and a particle at the same time
Think of photon as a ice-cream cone,if you look at it in a angle it will look like a circle
But if you look at it in a different angle it will look kind of like a triangle shape( maybe a prism)
So when photon travel at the speed of light they are waves but when they interact with other sub-atomic particle they appear to be particle
Yeah, what nugatory said. Reread post #2.
 

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