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White light and how it works

  1. Sep 17, 2012 #1
    I have been thinking about white light and having some trouble visualising how it actually works. I am aware that white light is made up from all the colours of the visible spectrum, my question is how does the light travel together in wave and photon form?

    my only thoughts so far are that photons travel in a "packet" as it were all hitting they eye at the same time creating white light, this may be very far off the mark as I do not know much about light at the moment but it is bothering me.

    If anyone could give some insight or suggest a good book to explain I would be very appreciative.

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 17, 2012 #2

    Drakkith

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    Staff: Mentor

    We perceive white light when all 3 cone cells in our eyes are activated approximately equally. All the different wavelengths travel the same whether they are in a beam of white light or by themselves. They do not travel together, each photon interacts independently of the others.
     
  4. Sep 17, 2012 #3
    Drakkith, so photons from each wavelength hit the eye at roughly the same time making white light, I believe I nearly had the answer just I thought they travelled as a collective. Thank you drakkith
     
  5. Sep 17, 2012 #4

    Drakkith

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    Staff: Mentor

    Exactly!
     
  6. Sep 17, 2012 #5
  7. Sep 18, 2012 #6
    Well, there's no such thing as a white photon. White light is just a mix of many overlapping colors. There's nothing holding white light together as a unit, so the colors will simply separate in a dispersive medium. It only stays together because all colors of light travel at the same speed in vacuum.
     
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