The photon is the quantum of the electromagnetic four-potential, and therefore the massless bosonic particle associated with the electromagnetic force, commonly also called the "particle of light". Use this tag for questions about the quantum-mechanical understanding of light and/or electromagnetic ...

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If photons have no mass, how can they have momentum?

As an explanation of why a large gravitational field (such as a black hole) can bend light, I have heard that light has momentum. This is given as a solution to the problem of only massive objects ...
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3answers
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Why doesn't light affect a compass?

In our daily life a lot of photons of visible light, infrared and radio etc move around us. We know that light is an electromagnetic radiation. So why doesn't that electromagnetic radiation affect a ...
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Photons from stars--how do they fill in such large angular distances?

It would seem that far-away stars are at such a distance that I should be able to take a step to the side and not have the star's photons hit my eye. How do stars release so many photons to fill in ...
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Neutrinos vs. Photons: Who wins the race across the galaxy?

Inspired by the wording of this answer, a thought occurred to me. If a photon and a neutrino were to race along a significant stretch of our actual galaxy, which would win the race? Now, neutrinos ...
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If I'm floating in space and I turn on a flashlight, will I accelerate?

Photons have no mass but they can push things, as evidenced by laser propulsion. Can photons push the source which is emitting them? If yes, will a more intense flashlight accelerate me more? Does ...
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Scattering of light by light: experimental status

Scattering of light by light does not occur in the solutions of Maxwell's equations (since they are linear and EM waves obey superposition), but it is a prediction of QED (the most significant Feynman ...
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If photon energies are continuous and atomic energy levels are discrete, how can atoms absorb photons?

If photon energies are continuous and atomic energy levels are discrete, how can atoms absorb photons? The probability of a photon having just the right amount of energy for an atomic transition is ...
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Why doesn't light kill me?

I was attending my philosophy class and in the middle of student presentations, I found myself mentally wondering off and thinking about light. After a few minutes of trying to piece together how the ...
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How can a photon have no mass and still travel at the speed of light?

I've read a number of the helpful Q&As on photons that mention the mass/mass-less issue. Do I understand correctly that the idea of mass-less (a rest mass of 0) may be just a convention to make ...
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Where do photons go when they are absorbed?

The answer I usually get (and I'm paraphrasing here) is that they disappear and are instead absorbed as heat energy. But I find it hard to believe that the photon simply "disappears." Common sense ...
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Are there any theoretical limits on the energy of a photon?

Is there any lower or upper limit on the energy of a photon? i.e. does the mathematical framework we currently use for Quantum Mechanics blow up when a photon surpasses a certain upper limit of ...
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Does a photon interfere only with itself?

I sometimes hear statements like that: Quantum-mechanically, interference pattern occurs due to quantum interference of wavefunction of a photon. Wavefunction of a single photon only interferes ...
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Can the photoelectric effect be explained without photons?

Lamb 1969 states, A misconception which most physicists acquire in their formative years is that the photoelectric effect requires the quantization of the electromagnetic field for its ...
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Why is an electron still an elementary particle after absorbing / emitting a photon?

When an electron absorbs a photon, does the photon become electron "stuff" (energy); or, is it contained within the electron as a discrete "something"?
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What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium?

So light travels slower in glass (for example) than in a vacuum. What causes light to slow down? Or: How does it slow down? If light passes through the medium, is it not essentially traveling in the ...
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How do we know photons have spin 1?

Electrons have spin 1/2, and as they are charged, they also have an associated magnetic moment, which can be measured by an electron beam splitting up in an inhomogeneous magnetic field or through the ...
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What equation describes the wavefunction of a single photon?

The Schrödinger equation describes the quantum mechanics of a single massive non-relativistic particle. The Dirac equation governs a single massive relativistic spin-½ particle. The photon is a ...
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Do photons gain mass when they travel through glass?

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that photons slow down when travelling through glass. Does this mean they gain mass? Otherwise, what happens to extra kinetic energy? I understand now ...
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If a photon goes up, does it come down?

If light can be bent by gravity, does a mass as dense as a star pull any fraction of photons back towards itself?
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Why is the $S_{z} =0$ state forbidden for photons?

If photons are spin-1 bosons, then doesn't quantum mechanics imply that the allowed values for the z-component of spin (in units of $\hbar$) are -1, 0, and 1? Why then in practice do we only use the ...
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Does a photon exert a gravitational pull?

I know a photon has zero rest mass, but it does have plenty of energy. Since energy and mass are equivalent does this mean that a photon (or more practically, a light beam) exerts a gravitational pull ...
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How are forces “mediated”?

I hope this is the right word to use. To me, these forces seem kind of fanciful (except for General Relativity and Gravity, which have a geometric interpretation). For example, how do two charged ...
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Amplitude of an electromagnetic wave containing a single photon

Given a light pulse in vacuum containing a single photon with an energy $E=h\nu$, what is the peak value of the electric / magnetic field?
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Do photons occupy space?

Total noob here. I realize that photons do not have a mass. However, they must somehow occupy space, as I've read that light waves can collide with one another. Do photons occupy space? and if so, ...
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Double Slit Experiment: How do scientists ensure that there's only one photon?

Many documentaries regarding the double slit experiment state that they only send a single photon through the slit. How is that achieved and can it really be ensured that it is a single photon?
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What do ants see?

After watching some ants in my garden today, and then looking at this very illuminating demonstration, I got to wondering, about what they would see. Not specifically ants (I understand their ...
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When photons reach us, what exactly is happening to us and to that photon?

I'm new to physics and am just going through some of the free online classes at World Science U, and after watching this video on the nature of the speed of light and its constancy, a question came to ...
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Can you split a photon?

I was wondering if a photon is divisible. If you look at a photon as a particle, then you may be able to split it (in theory). Is it possible and how do you split it?
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Is the electromagnetic spectrum discrete?

I'm just starting to learn physics and I have a question (that is probably stupid.) I learned that energy levels that the bound electron can have are discrete. I also learned that when an electron ...
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How are photons “consumed”?

I have very little background in physics, so I apologize if this question is painfully naive. Consider the following thought experiment: an observer is in a closed room whose walls, floor, and ...
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Comparing predictions and reality for the gravitational attraction due to light beams

While doing some on-the-side reading, I stumbled across this question: Do two beams of light attract each other in general theory of relativity?. Great question and a great, easily understandable ...
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Can a photon get emitted without a receiver?

It is generally agreed upon that electromagnetic waves from an emitter does not have to connect to a receiver, but how can we be sure this is a fact? The problem is that we can never observe non ...
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Does a photon in vacuum have a rest frame?

Quite a few of the questions given on this site mention a photon in vacuum having a rest frame such as it having a zero mass in its rest frame. I find this contradictory since photons must travel at ...
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How can a star emit light if it is in Plasma state?

I understand that star is in Plasma state (all nucleus and electrons are not bound to each other and moving around freely) Photon is emitted when an excited electron moves back to lower orbit. So in ...
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Difference between spin and polarization of a photon

I understand how one associates the spin of a quantum particle, e.g. of a photon, with intrinsic angular momentum. And in electromagnetism I have always understood the polarization of an EM wave as ...
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GHz rate single photon counting

The fluorescent lifetimes of molecules used in biological applications tend to be in the sub-ns to a few ns timescale (let's say 0.8-4). The most direct methods to measure lifetimes typically involve ...
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What longest time ever was achieved at holding light in a closed volume?

For what longest possible time it was possible to hold light in a closed volume with mirrored walls? I would be most interested for results with empty volume but results with solid-state volume may ...
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How does a photon experience space and time?

To an an external observer it appears that time has stopped for photon. But this relation is reflexive, so for an observer travelling with the photon it appears the universe has stopped everywhere. ...
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In an electron-positron annihilation, in what direction are the photons released?

I read that, in an electron-positron annihilation, at least 2 photons are produced, because of the law of conservation of momentum. my question is: in what direction are those photons released? and ...
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How does a photon travel through glass?

This was discussed in an answer to a related question but I think that it deserves a separate and, hopefully, more clear answer. Consider a single photon ($\lambda$=532 nm) traveling through a plate ...
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The exchange of photons gives rise to the electromagnetic force

Pardon me for my stubborn classical/semiclassical brain. But I bet I am not the only one finding such description confusing. If EM force is caused by the exchange of photons, does that mean only when ...
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2answers
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Born rule for photons: it works, but it shouldn't?

We can observe double-slit diffraction with photons, with light of such low intensity that only one photon is ever in flight at one time. On a sensitive CCD, each photon is observed at exactly one ...
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When lasers are used to cool atoms or ions, etc where does the heat go?

According to the first law of thermodynamics, sourced from wikipedia "In any process in an isolated system, the total energy remains the same." So when lasers are used for cooling in traps, similar ...
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Why don’t photons interact with the Higgs field?

Why don’t photons interact with the Higgs field and hence remain massless?
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2answers
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Does $E = mc^2$ apply to photons?

Photons are massless, but if $m = 0$ and $E=mc^2$, then $E = 0c^2 = 0$. This would say that photons have no energy, which is not true. However, given the formula $E = ℎf$, a photon does have energy ...
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What exactly is a quantum of light?

I am currently trying to learn some basic quantum mechanics and I am a bit confused. Wikipedia defines a photon as a quantum of light, which it further explains as some kind of a wave-packet. What ...
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Why are objects opaque?

I have been searching the internet for answers to this question, but haven't found a convincing one. I would appreciate any response. I understand why objects are opaque/black. For example when ...
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4answers
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What happens when a photon hits a mirror?

When a photon of light hits a mirror does the exact same photon of light bounce back or is it absorbed then one with the same properties emitted? If the same one is bounced back does it's velocity ...
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2answers
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What if photons are not the fastest particles?

Einstein originally thought that special relativity was about light and how it always travelled at the same speed. Nowadays, we think that special relativity is about the idea that there is some ...
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How do photons travel at a speed that should be impossible to attain?

If it requires infinite amount of energy to travel at the speed of light then how photon attains this speed? Its source is never infinitely sourced.