Science Saturday Open Thread: How Can Light be Both a Wave and a Particle?

 41 replies

Tony does his best to make you smarter, despite the comments section.

 

Travel back in time to the late 1800’s. The Physics world is getting pretty cocky. The general consensus is that everything that can be discovered has been discovered. Sure, there are a couple small questions, but these were just minor issues.

One of these questions was the nature of light. Some people thought light was a particle called a photon, while others thought it was a wave. The debate raged on for years, but then some guy named Albert Einstein came along and gave a new answer.

This was a crazy answer. How could a particle be a wave? But he proved it with the Photoelectric Effect, part of his amazing year. What does it mean? How is it possible?
 
The answer is that the “wave” describes a probability that the particle is at a certain location. This probability wave travels through space until it’s forced to decide. What makes it really weird is that this wave acts 100% like a wave, and not at all like a particle, while the particle acts 100% like a particle and not at all like a wave.
 
Waves can interact with each other to add together or subtract from each other. That looks something like this.
 
 
Obviously particles can’t add and subtract from itself like this. It would just move in a straight line. But what a particle will do is be discrete. Like a football. You can have 1 football, you can have 3 footballs, but you can’t have 2.34 footballs. That’s not the case with a wave, you can have any value you want. 2? Sure thing. 3.82? No problem.
 
When light hits and object (or is omitted), it has to do so one photon (a particle of light) at a time. That’s what the “quantum” in “quantum mechanics” means.
 
This wave/particle duality manifests itself in many ways. For example, think about an atom. It looks something like this, right?
 
 
Except no, that picture is a lie. Like photons, electrons are also both a particle and a wave, and when they orbit around the nucleus they act like a wave. They form what’s known as the electron cloud around the nucleus, which looks something like this.
 
 
The most famous example of this duality is the double slit experiment. If you send light through two slits the waves interfere with each other, so the light leaves a bar pattern.
 
 
Amazingly this occurs even if you send the light through one photon at a time. And of course, when the light actually hits the screen it does so as a complete photon, since it’s also a particle as well.
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NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs
05/30/2020 6:59 pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1QoVLMjQ68&feature=share&fbclid=IwAR0ZozfxQgoPfVtjufnjwCqxRY7ihMJHOxDCvyPVJv9iqM1DvM7PeHdFwZE

How have I not seen this one? Top 54(ish) plays of the year. Guess what’s #1 & #2. GO ahead.

Ok, the link button didn’t give a preview.Lost, as usual.

Last edited 1 month ago by NovaChiefs
workingmansdead
Reply to  NovaChiefs
05/30/2020 8:31 pm

That stop by Dirty Dan on the fake punt vs. Houston was so clutch.

Nasrani
Nasrani
05/30/2020 5:41 pm

Any love for 1970s Canadian metal in here?

The lead vocalist for this band has drawn comparisons to AC/DC’s Bon Scott, both in terms of vocal prowess and dying in their prime: this man was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1978, not long after this album was released.

pompano
pompano
Reply to  Nasrani
05/30/2020 8:22 pm
pompano
pompano
Reply to  pompano
05/30/2020 8:24 pm
BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 5:23 pm

Well, now I’m feeling pretty good, did a local kid a solid. Whole pack of them on bikes cut the corner through out parking lot and down a fairly sharp slope. They all made it safely, but one in the middle stopped, and stood there until they were gone. I tried giving him his privacy to do as he pleased without fear of judgement, but it finally became clear he wanted to talk to me, so I did.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 5:24 pm

He told me he’d been standing them because he didn’t want to wipe out again. Of course I told him “good choice”.

I told him about my childhood wrecks and how like him I never made the same mistake twice. He stood a little straighter and smiled a bit more brightly by the time he’d walked his bike down the slope, and as he rode off I called to him, “Way to use your head, kid!” Yay me, right?

Tyrone
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 6:55 pm

What was the problem? Not confident to take the slope?

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  Tyrone
05/30/2020 7:21 pm

It wasn’t lack of confidence, he just didn’t want to risk a repeat of his previous accident. His confidence for that will come with time, I just leant him some confidence to tide him over. He’s no coward, it wasn’t fear of the slope that stopped him, it was a legitimate concern for the risk involved and he chose to avoid the risk. And he was right, because the risk was needless.

I don’t think saying stuff like “gotta get back on that horse, son!” would have been nearly as helpful. Good risk evaluation and decision-making skills are more important in life than the blind courage to do something he knows is dangerous.

pompano
pompano
05/30/2020 4:12 pm

the uncertainty principle actually states a fundamental property of quantum systems and is not a statement about the observational success of current technology

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  pompano
05/30/2020 4:19 pm

Are you certain of that?

pompano
pompano
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 4:44 pm

Certain of what?

What is the question?

I know the answer is 42, so I got that going for me.

pompano
pompano
05/30/2020 3:55 pm

Tastey waves…

comment image

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  pompano
05/30/2020 4:23 pm

And talk about a difference in his next role, in ’83’s Bad Boys. Talk about range?

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0085210/?ref_=m_nmfmd_act_62

pompano
pompano
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 4:47 pm

Never did a romantic comedy, just sayin’

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  pompano
05/30/2020 5:15 pm

Penn never acted in one of them? Hat’s off to him.

BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 3:39 pm

Guy with expertise in medieval stuff got a modern day invention that could have been constructed back then, and it’s called the Instant Legolas. If nothing else watch to see a guy have a blast with a magazine-fed, rapid fire longbow.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-1bkGPAkJU

MasterChief
MasterChief
05/30/2020 2:16 pm

Speaking of science… it’s a historic day for space eXploration.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIZsnKGV8TE

6 minutes until launch!

Tyrone
Reply to  MasterChief
05/30/2020 4:43 pm

That went well.

Nasrani
Nasrani
Reply to  Tyrone
05/30/2020 5:19 pm

Very well. I’m hoping that NASA/SpaceX are able to meet their goals in the future.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  Nasrani
05/30/2020 5:23 pm

Check your email. *Facepalm*

Nasrani
Nasrani
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 5:40 pm

Been meaning to do that… sorry man!

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  Nasrani
05/30/2020 6:29 pm

I mainly commented for the timestamp, because I had literally just sent it, and the first thing I do is read your above comment. Timing, amIrite?

Nasrani
Nasrani
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 7:01 pm

Timing is a funny thing sometimes. I’m trying to be better about checking my email, though.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  MasterChief
05/30/2020 5:39 pm

Tuned in late, but they just announced that Bob and Doug will have a media event here shortly, and my first thought was, “Oh, great, it’s the McKenzie brothers up there!”. My mind’s a weird place to live but it can generate its own fun on random occasions.

larch
larch
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 6:04 pm

Coooroocukoocooroocukoo!

larch
larch
05/30/2020 12:18 pm

Recently rewatched Star Trek Next Generation’s Encounter at Far Point Station where the “alien” creatures can morph into any form of physical material. Fiction, sure, but some of the best sci fi bases itself on reality.

NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs
Reply to  larch
05/30/2020 2:13 pm

the first episode? My god, that was some awful dialogue. “Much joy and happiness!”

larch
larch
Reply to  NovaChiefs
05/30/2020 3:27 pm

Yes: that was the first episode and there’s some corny lines for sure. Try rewatching some of the original Star Trek series, it is so dated but of course it originated around fifty years ago.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  larch
05/30/2020 3:36 pm

Coming up on 54, first ep aired the week I was born.

larch
larch
Reply to  BleedingRedAndGold
05/30/2020 3:57 pm

Seems so long ago but yet not. I’m four years behind you and I didn’t get into the original series until the seventies.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  larch
05/30/2020 4:10 pm

So did I, since the series ended when I was three. I had to wait for local syndication to arrive. Oddly enough, there is one episode I have never seen, “A Taste of Armageddon”, and for some reason I cannot understand, I’m reluctant to watch it. I’ve read adaptations of it, both written and graphic, but I’ve re-watch about all of the rest of them and enjoyed it. It’s a mystery to me, but when the time comes, it will come. Very strange.

NovaChiefs
NovaChiefs
Reply to  larch
05/30/2020 5:39 pm

It was amazing to me how that show advanced over the seasons. Great writing, acting improved (except Wesley, of course). I noticed the same thing with Discovery. The pilot was terrible writing, and then the very next episode – great stuff.

Personal fave ST series: DS9

Last edited 1 month ago by NovaChiefs
vvet818
05/30/2020 10:52 am

The following nerd explains why I drink.

https://youtu.be/uWMTOrux0LM

upamtn
Reply to  vvet818
05/30/2020 11:43 am

what, you can’t handle the idea of being both dead AND alive at the same time? c’mon, man!

vvet818
Reply to  upamtn
05/30/2020 1:47 pm

of course I can, I’m married.

Gersidi76
Gersidi76
05/30/2020 10:27 am

Can my penis be both flaccid and erect?

WaywerdSon
WaywerdSon
05/30/2020 9:54 am

The quantum world is very very strange

pompano
pompano
Reply to  WaywerdSon
05/30/2020 4:04 pm

You can say that again, in the past, at the same time.

It is all terribly confusing.

BleedingRedAndGold
Reply to  pompano
05/30/2020 4:11 pm

Quantum physics is real, but it’s also God’s practical joke on physicists.

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