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Sckye Dickinson

Physics IV- Mrs. Wilson-James

The Dual Nature of Light Concept Paper
Assigned: December 1, 2014
Due: December 5, 2014

Sometimes light behaves as a particle, sometimes it behaves as a wave.

The special name given to a particle in this case is a photon, this tells us
how light travels in a straight line. A particle representing a quantum of
light or other electromagnetic radiation. A photon carries energy
proportional to the radiation frequency but has zero rest mass. When
light behaves like a wave, it means that it diffracts around an object.
This is called the dual nature of light or commonly called WaveParticle Duality. However, before these two views were both proven
right there was much controversy, is light consist of a particle or a
wave? Many scientists like, Max Planck, Newton, Einstein, James Maxwell and Christiaan Huygens contributed
their theories on the dual nature of light but all at different times, with many different influences.
The following year after Italian physicist Francesco Grimaldis work on diffraction was published; Sir Isaac
Newton brought a prism to attempt to prove Grimaldi wrong. Newton made various arguments about diffraction he
argued that diffraction was simply a new kind of reflection. He argued that the geometric nature of the laws
of reflection and refraction could only be explained if light was made of particles, which he referred to as
corpuscles, as waves do not tend to travel in straight lines. Newton also used the publication of Opticks to back up
his views on diffraction, in order to do so he had to appeal to wave-like properties and argued that particles of light
create waves. Newtons particle theory of light consisted of three points, light is made up of little particles, they
obey the same laws of physics as other masses like baseballs and planets, and they are tiny so the particles in two
intersecting beams do not scatter off each other. Both Newton and Grimaldi were proved partially wrong.
Christiaan Huygens theory on light refraction was based off of the knowledge of nature of light. This meant
that the velocity of light in any substance is inversely proportional to its refractive index. Huygens along with others
concluded that if light were composed of a stream of particles, then the opposite effect would occur because light
entering a denser medium would be attracted by molecules in the medium and experience an increase, rather than a
decrease, in speed. 150 years passed before the speed of light could be measured with a high enough accuracy to
prove that the Huygens theory was correct. Some argued that if light consisted of particles, then when two beams are
crossed, some of the particles would collide with each other to produce a deviation in the light beams. Obviously,
this is not the case, so they concluded that light must not be composed of individual particles.
Already in 1803 Thomas Young studied diffraction and interference of light. His studies
approved and supported the wave theory which was the work of Christiaan Huygens. However he
didnt agree with the particle theory of Sir Issac Newton. Thomas Young conducted an experiment
that entailed using two narrow slits with light shined through, and a detector. He used this to show
that waves emerging from one slit are superimposed on waves from the other slit, it then produced
an interference pattern with light and dark lines on the screen. So what side was Thomas Young on,
team particle or team wave? Young was born June 13, 1773 Milverton Somerset, and died May 10 1829, London.
Young established the principle of interference of light and brought back an old wave theory of light. In 1817 he
proposed that light waves were transverse, rather than longitudinal. This explained polarization, the alignment of
light waves to vibrate in the same plane. After reading Dutch physicist Christiaan Huygens Traite de Lumiere
(Treatise on Light) in which he proposed hat light was a wave, Young conducted his experiment that was thought to
resolve all controversy on the topic.

Sckye Dickinson
Physics IV- Mrs. Wilson-James
The Dual Nature of Light Concept Paper
Assigned: December 1, 2014
Due: December 5, 2014
Max Planck suggested that energy of light is
proportional to its frequency. He is considered the founding
father of what we know today as the Quantum Theory. Here we
learn about the photoelectric effect. It can simply be described as
when light strikes a metal surface, the surface gives off
electrons. For each metal, there is a minimum frequency of
electromagnetic radiation at which the effect occurs, the
replacement of light with twice the intensity and half the
frequency will not produce the same outcome, opposing to what
would be predicted if light acted as just a wave. This observation
made the road to Max Planck naming this the minimum amount
the quantum or quanta theory. According to Planck: E=h,
where h is Planck's constant (6.62606957(29) x 10-34 J s), is
the frequency, and E is energy of an electromagnetic wave. He
claimed that this was his outlook of the process of absorption and emission of radiation and had absolutely nothing
to do with the physical reality of radiation itself. In 1905 Albert Einstein revised Plancks quantum theory and used
to explain the photoelectric effect.
Einstein is known for his contributions to the development of the quantum theory. Although he was one of
the leading figures in the development of quantum theory, Einstein observed it as only a temporarily useful structure.
He suggested that light behaves as if it is composed of photons. In 1909, he introduced what was later called the
wave-particle duality, the idea that the wave theory of light had to be supplemented by an equally valid yet
contradictory quantum theory of light as discrete particles.
The view of the nature of light has gone back and forth for many years. Particle or wave? Well we have
found out over various theories, that light actually has a dual nature. Light can act as a particle and light may act as a
wave. There were also various other scientist that contributed to this notion, no one scientist did it alone. It took the
work of many to come to the conclusion that we have today that wave is acts as a particle and a wave.

Sckye Dickinson
Physics IV- Mrs. Wilson-James
The Dual Nature of Light Concept Paper
Assigned: December 1, 2014
Due: December 5, 2014
Works Sited
"PhysicsLAB." PhysicsLAB. Web. 2 Dec. 2014. <
Web. 2 Dec.2014 <>
"The Dual Nature of Light as Reflected in the Nobel Archives." The Dual Nature of Light as Reflected in
the Nobel Archives. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.
<>. - Video Explaining Particle
and Wave light theory
19 Apr. 2006. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <>.
Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <>.
Web.4 Dec 2014 <>