2
$\begingroup$

If yes, could the same photon hit multiple targets as it expands? If not, how does the photon acquire the wave-ness if it is not born as a spherical wave? Also, in second case, how can multiple photons synchronize to make up a single wave front?

$\endgroup$

marked as duplicate by John Rennie, Jon Custer, David Hammen, Kyle Kanos, AccidentalFourierTransform Feb 24 '17 at 12:12

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • $\begingroup$ The connection between the photon (QM) and classical (EM) treatments of light is not simple. There are a variety of questions on Physics SE that explore this concept. However, was does a photon have to be a spherical wavefront in the first place? $\endgroup$ – Jon Custer Feb 22 '17 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Also see Some doubts about photons. That is basically the same as your question despite the unhelpful title. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Feb 22 '17 at 16:19
2
$\begingroup$

The only way to induce electromagnetic radiation is to disturb subatomic particles. For the emission of a photon it's enough that in an atom an (excited) electron falls back into a lower level. Once emitted the photon travels through empty space as a quanta of energy. The photon is indivisible during its travel. Hence a single photon couldn't have a spherical wavefront.

The sum of the emitted photons - say from an electric bulb - is called electromagnetic radiation. The emission from a laser is very strong directed, from a bulb it is much more spherical directed. So the radiation could be spherical, no matter would this be from a bulb or a star. Being far enough away from the source one would receive single photons. But this is not a wavefront.

how does the photon acquire the wave-ness?

A wavefront one could produce with radiation waves. Radio waves are produced by periodical acceleration of electrons in the antenna rod.

how can multiple photons synchronize to make up a single wave front?

Since this acceleration happens nearly synchronously for all involved electrons the number of emitted photons follows the frequency of the antenna generator. So for radio waves one really could measure wave properties (which is not possible for a bulb powered by a DC current). But again, being far enough from the antenna one will receive single photons.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Is a single photon emitted as a spherical EM wavefront?

No. The photon in present day particle physics theories, i.e. mathematical models which fit the data, is one of the elementary point particles. When measured it has just an energy=h*nu, where nu is the frequency of the classical electromagnetic wave that will emerge from a large number of such photons.

This is clearly seen in the one photon at a time recording of the two slit experiment:

singlephot

Single-photon camera recording of photons from a double slit illuminated by very weak laser light. Left to right: single frame, superposition of 200, 1’000, and 500’000 frames.

The frame on the left shows individual photon hits at an (x,y) as dots. No spherical wave. The wave nature appears with the accumulation of data, i.e in the probability distribution of finding a photon at (x,y). Quantum mechanics is all about probability distributions.

If not, how does the photon acquire the wave-ness if it is not born as a spherical wave? Also, in second case, how can multiple photons synchronize to make up a single wave front?

The probability distribution shown is the complex conjugate squared of the wavefunction describing the single photon. The wave function is a solution of a quantized maxwell's equation, and has in its complex function the electric and magnetic fields. Since there is continuity (use of Maxwell's equation) between the classical regime and the quantum mechanical it should not be surprising that the variables measured in the classical regime are carried in the wavefunction of the photon in the quantum mechanical regime.

When there are many photons the classical field emerges by the superposition of all the photons wavefunctions. This has been treated mathematically in quantum field theory in this link.

See also this answer of mine on a similar question.

$\endgroup$

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.