Scientists at the EPFL School of Computer and Communications in Switzerland have managed to take a snapshot of light performing the way Einstein theorized- as a particle and a wave. Although quantum mechanics has shown us that Einstein's theory is true we have never been able to visualize it in practice.
The new image was published at the beginning of the month in Nature Communications. The team of scientists completed experiments in a unique way to capture the image. They used electrons to image light. Their experiment went something like this: Laser light is shot at a nanowire, which then vibrates as its particles are charged. The light travels along the wire in two directions. When the waves meet up with each other they create a new wave that radiates around the nanowire creating the light source. The scientists then shoot a stream of electons at the nanowire that image the wave of light. The electrons do one of two things- speed up or slow down. Using a speedy microscope they can take an image of the location where the change in speed takes place. Phew! Confused? I'll admit, I was too. Don't feel bad, it isn't rocket science, but it is quantum mechanics after all!
|Ferdinand Schmutzer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons|
The short version is that we can now see something that we have never been able to see before! Depending on their learning style this can help clarify a physics concept that was once abstract into something more concrete for many students. To see the fascinating image, visit the Science Daily article, "First ever photograph of light as a particle and a wave"
- Science Daily: "First ever photograph of light as a particle and a wave"
- LiveScience: "Image Captures Light's Spooky Dual Nature for the 1st Time"
- Nature Communications: "Simultaneous observation of the interference pattern of a plasmonic near-field" (Full text)
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- Our Eyes and Ears Detect Waves (activity plan)
- Exploratorium Science Snacks: Rotating Light
- Laser Jello: Explore the Properties of a Laser