In my attempt to explain how Photons, as force carrying particles are able to form an electromagnetic wave I began to think about physical sound waves.

If Photons are the force carriers for an electromagnetic wave, could air Particles be the physical equivalent of force carriers for a sound wave? Therefore interacting with other physical objects (e.g a speaker diaphragm) as particles exchanging the force, and overall the sound wave appears to transfer to the speaker?

(Currently a baffled A level Physics student on my 2nd day... Looking to read into Quantum Field Theory).


1 Answer 1


although it is tempting to draw the analogy you cite between sound transmission in air and electromagnetic wave/photon transmission in space, it isn't particularly useful from the standpoint of the specific physics involved in each case.

Sound waves require a medium through which to travel, and electromagnetic waves (or photons, depending on how you like to think of them) do not.

Sound waves are longitudinal, meaning that the thing or substance that is doing the physical "waving" (molecules of air) moves back and forth in the same direction as the direction in which the wave is traveling. Electromagnetic waves on the other hand are best described as transverse waves, in which the rise and fall of the field strength occurs in a direction at right angles to that of the light beam's travel.

However, it is true that wave phenomena in general have some common features, like diffraction, reflection and absorption, and the mathematics of things like characteristic impedance are generally useful in that field. This makes the study of waves valuable for physics students like you and I encourage you to pursue that in your studies.

Best of luck to you!


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