I've been trying to work out what the physical nature of electromagnetic waves is, since I reasoned that given electromagnetic waves have wavelengths that are given in distance units, rather than units of energy or some other more abstract/non-physical unit, then electromagnetic waves must have a physical description.
I queried my roommate (who is studying computer hardware engineering in university) and though he could provide some appropriate equations relating properties of electromagnetic waves, it seemed as though their physical description was left as a blackbox by his professors.
For elucidation on what I'm asking:
a) What do a peak or a trough represent in physical space?
b) Does an electromagnetic wave traversing physical space over time fill an area, or rather in the case of non-polarized light a volume? If not, why do we use units of distance to measure amplitude and wavelength?
c) If it takes up a volume, does this volume shrink during a trough and expand during a peak?
d) If it takes up a volume, is the energy of the photon(s) becoming maximally diffuse and then minimally diffuse cyclically?
Just trying to fathom it for myself, my end result is a drawing of a single wave with a grid drawn overtop where I assume that each box is a planck area and we assign a 1 for boxes which are inside the area of the wave and a 0 for boxes outside. Using this technique I concluded for each moment in time I could assign a percentage value for the density (or alternatively the diffusivity; I do not know the word you would use to refer to the degree to which a system is diffuse, on a side note, if you do, please let me know!) of the photon(s) energy (perhaps in the form of physical oscillation over the distance) based on the ratio of 1s to 0s in that column. In this drawing I'm assuming polarized light and only looking at one of either the electric force or magnetic force, though I assume I could simple double my density percentage for each column to include both. This interpretation seems ill-conceived though; how does the probability wave of the photon(s) look in comparison to the wave I've drawn?
Very confused and seeking answers which might help shine some light on the matter. I ultimately fear that the issue with my attempts to discern a physical picture of an electromagnetic wave lie in the fact that the answer is truly unintuitive and unsatisfying. By the way, I'm a layman with an interest in physics, not a student of it, so please try to be as idiot-friendly as possible with your answers.