A simple way to visualise wave particle duality.

Whether you’re interested in physics or not wave particle duality is a amazing topic to learn about. Scientists debated for years as to whether light was a particle or a wave. In the end it was settled that everybody was right and light can act as waves or particles under certain circumstances. So, how is that?

If somebody told you that under certain circumstances an apple can be a banana and vice versa you wouldn’t believe them and for good reason. However, on a microscopic scale things act a lot differently and people find this concept hard to grasp. This is completely understandable as our common sense kicks in and tells us one thing cannot be two different things.

So to explain it nice and simply think of a cylinder. If you look at the cylinder from the end you get this view:



If you look at the cylinder from the side you get this view:rectangular-shape-outline_318-50086If you look at the cylinder at a angle you get this view:

cylinder1Now imagine you could never see the third view. Would you ever know the object was a cylinder? No. You would think that the object kept changing from a circle to a rectangle and not really understand what was happening. This is exactly how we view light, when we measure it sometimes we see a particle and sometimes we see a wave but there’s so much more to light that we cannot see (pun not intended). We may not ever be able to see the “cylinder” because it is beyond our capabilities as human beings but I may be proven wrong.

This a simplified model of wave particle duality and I find it useful to visualise this way.


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