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Particle Nature of Light

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Particle Nature of Light

Earth & Space Science

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You will get to expand your knowledge of the atom in an exploration of the nature of its parts. Learn about radiation, the dual nature of light, and get an introduction to the world of quantum mechanics.

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Now You Know

After completing this tutorial, you will be able to complete the following:

  • Explain the experimental results that support the theory that light is made up of particles.
  • Describe a photon.

Everything You'll Have Covered

What was German physicist Max Planck able to explain about the spectrum of hot bodies?

~ Max Planck was able to explain the spectrum of hot bodies by assuming that energy emitted by incandescent bodies is discrete, meaning that it traveled in packets, and not waves. Planck also stated that this discrete energy was related to the frequency of radiation and a constant, which he called Planck's constant. He also assumed that the energy of the vibrating atoms in any body had only specific frequencies, and that this can be shown with an equation stating that the energy of the vibrating atoms equals exact multiples of the Planck constant times the frequency of the vibration. The presence of discrete energies indicated that the radiation was also discrete, just like particles.

Explain the work performed by Compton to validate Einstein's hypothesis about momentum of photons.

~ Compton tested Einstein's hypothesis by directing X-rays of a known wavelength into a graphite target. Compton found that photons whose frequencies changes during collision transferred energy and momentum to electrons. This experiment verified Einstein's hypothesis that photons have energy and electrons.

Which theory better explains how light behaves, the wave theory or the particle theory?

~ Neither theory can fully describe the behavior of light. Some properties can only be explained by the wave theory, while others can only be explained by the particle theory.

Tutorial Details

Approximate Time 2 Minutes
Pre-requisite Concepts Students should be able to define Compton effect, dual nature of light, and Einstein.
Course Earth & Space Science
Type of Tutorial Animation
Key Vocabulary Compton effect, dual nature of light, Einstein