First-ever photo of light behaving as a wave and particle


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I read this yesterday, and it seems like hype to me.

They’re imaging a standing light wave - or not even a light wave; it’s a field induced in a wire by light. So… there’s a wave, and it’s interacting with particles. In what sense does this mean that the light is simultaneously a particle?

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If you stare at this long enough a alivedead cat will pop into being 50% of the time.

Or so my readings of this subject have led me to believe.


Because they’re shooting electrons at the standing wave to generate the image. The reporting claims that for electrons to be able to interact with light, light has to be a particle. When an electron hits those photons, it’s observable as a change of speed in the electron. If light was only wave that apparently couldn’t happen.

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IANAQP, but I’m trying to understand how this is more special than the classic double-slit experiment, where photons can be fired one by one through a double slit, and they act like particles (hitting the screen one by one) and like waves (interfering with THEMSELVES.) You even end up with a “wavy” pattern also made up of “particular” individual dots where each photon hit…


Yeah… the description/headline is ridiculously hype-y.

Ask the writers what they mean by “wave” and what they mean by "particle. Then ask a physicist. Then see if this still sounds exciting in the same way.

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it’s not the first:

Ramesh Raskar: Imaging at a trillion frames per second

I don’t like asking physicists questions about physics, at least not without an empty schedule.

Because once they get on a roll you’re stuck there for at least an hour.

Listening to them talk amongst themselves is more fun, because they don’t feel the need to give as much background to their peers. Granted the things they do say are utterly incomprehensible at first but do it enough times and you can start to pick up the general idea of what’s going on.

[quote=“xzzy, post:4, topic:52939”]The reporting claims that for electrons to be able to interact with light, light has to be a particle.[/quote]But that’s not true at all. Light interacts with electrons all the time. Besides, the reporting also says that the “laser adds energy to the charged particles in the nanowire, causing them to vibrate”, but vibrating charged particles don’t necessarily make light – they make precisely the kind of field you would expect to interact with electrons.

I’m not 100% sure but I don’t think this, as neat as it is, has anything to do with the article.

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Fair point - many are really bad at concise answers.

The real question: what does the original article’s writer think every other picture ever has been of?

Now we know better. The cat, being a macroscopic system, is alive or dead before you observe it, by the simple power of statistics and the massive number of particles it is composed of.

I’m really surprised to see so many variations of “pfft” here! I think this is one of the coolest photos I’ve seen in years, and I really enjoyed the articles linked. Seems like a really clever way to photograph the unphotographical.


Just imagine if it had been in portrait.


It is hype. They’re not imaging individual photons.

But each individual photon is still just a dot, not a spread out wave. The wave in this case is not seen directly.

You’re right. There is a perfectly viable semi-classical theory of light-particle interactions covered in every quantum text. Electron is treated quantum, light is treated classically.

And thus Deepak Chopra was born. All the vocabulary of science without any of the work.

Is no one else bothered that the chart of electrons measured is in “arbitrary units” and ranges from “min” to “max”?!

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