26 April, 2013

A To Z Challenge: Wave-Particle Duality

Unlike almost every other letter of the alphabet, W has no corresponding scientific field of study. So I kind of sat in front of my computer for an hour trying in vain to come up with some kind of subject--and ended up going with wave-particle duality. Again. Because it's a somewhat recent development (physics-wise) and a fascinating subject.

Double-slit experiment, with the interference pattern on the right
and the two vertical slits in the center as S2. CC BY-SA 3.0,
via Wikimedia Commons
Wave-particle duality, which I touched on in my post Quantum Physics, is when a particle acts as both a wave and a particle; light had long been thought to be a wave until certain experiments demonstrated particle-like qualities. One of the more famous experiments is the double-slit experiment, which demonstrates light's wave properties.

Richard Feynman came up with the following analogy: Imagine you're shooting at a wall, but between you and the wall is a sheet with two vertical slits. The logical assumption would be that the bullets would hit the wall in two corresponding vertical rows--but that isn't what happens with light. Instead, when you shine light at two vertical slits, it builds up in an interference pattern (several bright and dark bands), which is a characteristic of waves, not particles.

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Sources:
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/637889/wave-particle-duality
http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000/schroedinger/two-slit3.html
http://physics.about.com/od/lightoptics/a/doubleslit.htm
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wave-particle+duality
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/mod1.html

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When you think about light, do you tend to think of it as a wave or a particle? 


-----The Golden Eagle

15 comments:

Carol Kilgore said...

Not going to even pretend to understand this. I expect to see your name in the headlines one day for discovering something absolutely fantastic. And the only way I'll know it's you is you'll say you once blogged as the Golden Eagle.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interesting way to demonstrate that it is both.

L.G. Keltner said...

I took physics in college, and I remember performing the double slit experiment during lab. It was interesting. My professor jokingly said light was composed of wavicles since light behaves as both a wave and a particle.

Samuel Bledsoe said...

It's crazy. When you play with light it acts like a wave, but as soon as you treat it like a wave it begins to act in other ways I think of it as a wave because that's how my eye perceives it. It seems particle like when you start moving at high speeds, I remember.

Liz said...

I saw something somewhere (Through the Wormhole perhaps?) where they did the whole wave/particle duality in a macroscopic environment. And it was kind of the way I'd always envisioned it. Kinda cool.

Pat Hatt said...

Interesting how things never work as thought, then given example and poof makes sense.

Rusty Webb said...

I have to admit, I used to (really) stay up at night and think long and hard about the double-slit experiment and try to parse out some hidden meaning that no one has ever considered before.

What can I say, I was young, and had an inflated opinion of myself.

Anyway, I tend to think of light like a wave, but that's just me trying to visualize something. I've got no issues accepting its duality.

Rob-bear said...

Fascinating. Not that I can understand it; I don't. But that you can understand it.

Blessings and Bear hugs!
Bears Noting

Amy Jarecki said...

Interesting. I LOVE science and golden eagles! There is a golden eagle in my WIP--I had to do a lot of research to make the scenes with "Griffon" realistic. It's nice to meet you!

DWei said...

I have no strong feelings one way or another. :P

Medeia Sharif said...

I tend to think of it as waves.

Deborah Walker said...

It's just fascinating that it's both. I mean how can it be. *Scratches head*

But it is both! Unless it's something else as well that we can't even imagine--yet.

The Golden Eagle said...

Carol: I'm not too sure about that . . . but it's nice of you to say so. :) Can't say I'd mind making a major discovery!

Alex: It is.

L.G.: LOL. I like his term!

Samuel: I didn't know that it behaved differently based on your speed. Interesting.

Liz: It's so much fun to watch the experiment happen live.

Pat: Yup! One of the main things I love about science. :)

Rusty: Who hasn't done something like that?

Me, neither. I tend to think of duality whenever I try to conceptualize light now that I know it's both.

Rob-bear: I try to, anyway. Sometimes I'll read an article or something and think I'm just pretending.

Amy: Who'd have guessed my blog would match up like that. :)

I love griffons. I wish they were used more in fiction!

DWei: I don't really, either.

Medeia: It has a lot of wavelike characteristics!

Deborah: Now there's an interesting thought.

Paul Tobin said...

Mind boggling not sure. I can believe that it is both and neither.

The Golden Eagle said...

Paul: It's a fascinating phenomenon.