The Light and Sound Experience Part 2: - Light

December 19, 2023



                                                           The Split Personality of Light

Forget military service, or a year’s work experience in industry. Why even bother to take a gap year out to go trotting merrily across the globe? Nothing in my opinion would enrich our lives more than if we all took a year off, in the contemplation and study of the very real *dichotomy and strangest behaviour of light.

Thanks to Gaven Pretor-Pinney, author of The Wavewatchers’s Companion, I have been, ‘mind blown’, over the past five months, knee deep in the reading and research of such a fascinating and mind-boggling subject. Because still to this day, “most scientists who have worked in the field of quantum mechanics would be at great pains to say, that they too have found the nature of light as bloody mysterious as the rest of us”. 

Since the mid-18th century, the predicament most physicists found themselves in, was the argument of whether light was a particle or a wave. Over the centuries, reputable scientists such as Newton, Young and Einstein, were able to convincingly theorise new evidence that would periodically overturn societal thinking of light’s behaviour at the time. This alternate - ‘is light a wave’ or ‘is it a particle’ conundrum continued steadily for over three centuries. But then, in 1923, the bonkers behaviour of light was finally revealed; in the famous double slit experiment conducted by Davisson and Germer, who discovered that light had all this time been leading a double life... inconspicuously moving around as waves, but behaving like particles, only while being observed [naughty].


Davisson and Germer’s brilliant experiment didn’t, however, reveal that light’s behaviour changed through the mere act of looking at it. It was in the analysis of light, that had given rise to its duality and curiously still, this phenomena not only occurred through the mind of the human observer, but the same was true when the experiment was performed only in the presence of a machine. 

The peculiarity of light remains to this day bizarre, and there is no end in time and money spent in its continued pursuit. Could it be less of a question of ‘why’ does light behave like this and more of a question of what could the conscious self have to do with it? Where does the answer lie? Maybe not at the end of the Hadron Collider, but perhaps at the end of a very long and deep meditation. Is it that sometimes science can only bring us only so far, and that some things will remain as unanswerable as magic! 

Sometimes it’s far easier to forget the unfathomable than to continue to keep figuring it out. But in the thought, study and fascination of our magnificent universe, isn’t it marvellous that we are able to bring a little meaning into the mundane. Owing to this strange wave – particle phenomena, my studies have been endlessly fascinating... life doesn’t always require a million-dollar scientific set-up to reveal to us it’s great mysteries, or to find in it your own truth.
So is light a particle or a wave? It’s most definitely both and we just don’t understand it. Some might also ask, “did God create the universe or did we just evolve here”? Well maybe it was both and we just don’t understand it… because it wasn’t one or the other… it was most definitely everything. 

*Dichotomy – a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Hamlet.

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