How is it possible to the interactions of EM waves with each other. E.G. how do visible waves interact with another wave frequency like X-Rays?

  • $\begingroup$ Wave superposition $\endgroup$
    – Ghoster
    May 29 at 0:00
  • $\begingroup$ Why do you think they interact at all? What exactly do you want to know here? $\endgroup$
    – ACuriousMind
    May 29 at 14:19

2 Answers 2


A crucial characteristic of electromagnetic waves is that in everyday circumstances they can pass right through one another without any disturbance. This means that light sources from all the lit-up signs in Las Vegas can all reach your eye without interacting; that the beams from different radio and TV broadcast stations can cross through one another without any effects on those signals, and that radio frequency signals, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet light, x-rays and gamma rays from the active core of a distant galaxy can travel along the same path to our telescopes for millions of years without affecting one another.

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    $\begingroup$ So to be clear, for example in a slit experiment: They don't interact with each other and patterns are only created when individual photons accumulate at a detection screen or some surface of matter. $\endgroup$ May 28 at 18:12
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    $\begingroup$ I specified "in everyday circumstances", so as to exclude the interference that occurs in an optical system connected to a slit or something like that. I excluded that case because I don't know an easy way to explain the slit experiment to a 15-year-old. $\endgroup$ May 28 at 18:16
  • $\begingroup$ OK thanks, then are you saying "in everyday circumstances" they don't interfere with each other but maybe in a slit experiment they do? $\endgroup$ May 28 at 18:30
  • $\begingroup$ I am saying that with care and precision, using carefully-created light beams, they will interfere- but not when you are sauntering casually down the Miracle Mile, bathed in neon light and laser beams! $\endgroup$ May 28 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ So back to the OP question, How do they interact with each other? $\endgroup$ May 28 at 18:43

EM waves pass through each other. When they reach a solid surface they can interfere constructively (the waves add together) or destructively (the waves cancel out).

This is easiest to see with two sources of coherent light. Here is a fun interactive website where you can play with coherent waves: Falstad.com wave simulation

The waves need to be close in wavelength/frequency to see any interference and the effect is strongest when they are the same frequency.

Visible light is many orders of magnitude different in frequency/wavelength to X-rays, so there will be no detectable interaction/interference.


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