Wondering about the particle treatment of light?

In summary, the conversation discusses the nature of photons and their connection to classical electric and magnetic fields. It is noted that photons are fundamentally defined in terms of energy, and it is difficult to pin them down spatially. The question of whether it is possible to describe a photon as a particle in terms of a wave is also raised.
  • #1
jeebs
325
4
This question might not even make sense but here goes, it's is about the particle nature of light. As I understand it we can take a sine wave extending throughout all space and add to it others of different wavelength, and we see the the phase differences causing the amplitude to decrease as we look "along" the wave - we get a wavepacket. Is this what a photon is? A localized little bit of electromagnetic wave? If it is, then how do we get photns produced from electron transitions in atoms that only allow 1 very specific energy change/photon wavelength?
If we have a stream of photons of the same wavelength and nothing like a wavepacket is involved, how do we know where to draw the line between where one photon begins and the preious one ends? Like is it just one continuous sine wave - how is it divided up? Does some uncertainty principle effect come into play here where we can't really say where the edge of the photon is or something?

Does it even make sense to try and force a description of a particle out of a wave?
 
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  • #2
jeebs said:
Is this what a photon is? A localized little bit of electromagnetic wave?

No, a photon is not a localized wave packet of the (classical) electric and magnetic fields (E and B). The connection between the photons of quantum electrodynamics on one hand, and the classical E and B fields on the other hand, is complicated and subtle. Also, photons are fundamentally defined in terms of energy, not in terms of position, and they become very "slippery" when you try to pin them down spatially (in terms of position or spatial size).

People have posted about this connection before, but I can't manage to turn up any of those posts via the forum search. Maybe somebody will point us in the right direction.
 
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Related to Wondering about the particle treatment of light?

What is the particle treatment of light?

The particle treatment of light refers to the idea that light can behave as both a wave and a particle, known as the wave-particle duality. This concept was first proposed by scientists in the early 20th century and has been extensively studied and confirmed through various experiments.

How does the particle treatment of light differ from the wave treatment of light?

The wave treatment of light sees light as a continuous wave that travels through space, while the particle treatment of light sees light as a stream of discrete particles called photons. These two treatments have different mathematical models and can explain different phenomena of light, but they both accurately describe the behavior of light.

What evidence supports the particle treatment of light?

There are several experiments that support the particle treatment of light, such as the photoelectric effect, where light is observed to behave as individual particles when interacting with certain materials. Additionally, the double-slit experiment also supports the particle treatment of light, as it shows that light can behave like particles by creating an interference pattern on a screen.

Can light simultaneously behave as a wave and a particle?

Yes, according to the principles of quantum mechanics, light can exist as both a wave and a particle at the same time. This is known as the wave-particle duality and is one of the fundamental concepts of modern physics.

How does the particle treatment of light impact our understanding of the universe?

The particle treatment of light, along with other principles of quantum mechanics, has greatly impacted our understanding of the universe at the smallest scales. It has led to the development of technologies such as lasers, LEDs, and solar cells, and has also played a crucial role in fields such as quantum computing and cryptography. Additionally, it has challenged our traditional understanding of cause and effect and has opened up new possibilities for scientific exploration.

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