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What is the Nature of Light?

Use the links below to answer the following questions relating to whether light should be considered a particle or a wave phenomenon:

  1. Does light display the property of reflection? Cite two examples from your personal experience of light's obeying the law of reflection.
    1. Do waves reflect and obey the law of reflection? Cite two examples from your experience or from the references below.
    2. Do particles reflect and obey the law of reflection? Cite two examples from your experience or from the references below.
  2. Does light display the property of refraction? Cite two examples from your personal experience of light's obeying the laws of refraction.
    1. Do waves refract? Cite two examples from your experience or from the references below.
    2. Do particles refract? Cite two examples from your experience or from the references below.
  3. Does light display straight line propagation? Again, cite two examples from your experience.
    1. Do waves display this property? Cite two examples from your experience or from the references below.
    2. Do particles display this property? Cite two examples from your experience or from the references below.
  4. Now, does light diffract? Once more, cite at least two examples from your experience.
    1. How is the property of diffraction a deciding property for determining whether light is a particle or wave?
    2. Describe experiments that demonstrate the diffraction of light.
    3. Explain why this property of light was not discovered earlier than it was.
  5. Finally, what evidence convinces modern scientists that light must also be considered to display particle-like properties?

Resources on the Nature of Light

The Dual Nature of Light
This site from the On-Line Physics Lab provides a clear complet outline of the properties of both waves and particles and explains the evidence from experiments that have demonstrated light's tricky qualities.
The Nature of Light
Factmonster summarizes the chief theories about light's nautre and cites the proponents of these theories.
Newton's Mechanical Model of Refraction
This article from a book by Rouse Ball on the history of mathematics discusses Isaac Newton's model for describing refraction of light based on light's being a stream of particles.
More on Netwonian Optics
This section from the larger Wikipedia article on Isaac Newton does a nice job of listing and describing Newton's many contributions ot the theory of light and color.
The Wave-particle Dual Nature of Light
Here's a series of articles about the nature of light from the Nobel Institute in Sweden. It includes information about light's wave-particle duality as well as reports on Nobel prize-winning research about light and electromagnetic radiation.
Light: Wave and Particle
From Prof. Phillip Grandinetti in the Ohio State chemistry department, this page features a nice summary and explanation of the properties of light that make us conclude light displays both behaviors.
The Nature of Light: Unconventional Photographic Techniques
This site is a sampling of an exhibition from Photoarts.com featuring some examples from the show.


Last updated Tuesday, April 3, 2012
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