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Is there a way we can see light at a microscopic scale? In other words, is there an experimentally feasible way to see the structure of photons?

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  • $\begingroup$ I edited protons into photons otherwise there is no sense to the question as is. If you want to discuss detection of protons you have to expand the question to make it understandable $\endgroup$ – anna v Jan 22 '16 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Photons do interact with themselves interference patterns are one such example... $\endgroup$ – user82412 Jan 22 '16 at 11:53
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Photons are simply quanta (very small pieces) of energy - they have no physical size, and no physical 'structure'. This video is a good introduction to our modern understanding of what light is.

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light is made of photons, not of protons or anything else. And as an electromagnetic wave, it's structure is often the structure of its interaction with the matter (typically made of dielectrics and conducters).

Then, it all depends what you accept as "seeing":

  • you can see it because it reach your captors (which are not exactly at the place of focus)
  • you can see it through how it affects something else (secondary emissions or transformation, etc)
  • in microscopy, you "see" by sending probes (usually photons, sometime electrons) which are modified in their transmission or by their reflection. I guess photons might slightly modify some electrons' flight, but probably not practical at usual energies.

Anyway it also depend what you expect to see: photons are traveling pretty fasts ! or due you want to see something like "the still surface of a fast river", like, steady caustics at some places due to the imperfect optics within the laser generator ?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a digital camera? Do the photons modify the electrons in its CCD or CMOS chip? Of course they do. How about your eyes? Do the electrons in your light receptor molecules get modified by light? Now, if you want "direct" modification of free electrons in vacuum by photons, are x-ray energies "usual"? They are in your doctor's office and the scattering at those energies is fairly strong. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Jan 22 '16 at 9:19
  • $\begingroup$ Imaging something where it is is not the same thing that collecting it or its effects through collision after travelling. Measuring a 3D (/6D) light field on place via beams of electrons is probably less easy than making a CCD captor. And by energy, I meant intensity, not wavelength: the question was on light, not the whole EM spectrum. :-) $\endgroup$ – Fabrice NEYRET Jan 24 '16 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ Please read up on the photo effect and Compton scattering. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Jan 24 '16 at 4:15
  • $\begingroup$ photo effect on a beam of electrons ? Compton scattering: same thing (maybe the inverse Compton, then). Are you sure you understood the question ? $\endgroup$ – Fabrice NEYRET Jan 24 '16 at 10:39

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