What is a photon?

A photon is the carrier of the electromagnetic force, and is the quantum form of all electromagnetic radiation. This includes, light, radio waves, microwaves, X-rays, gamma rays and more. The most common to humans is visible light, which we detect with the retinas in our eyes. However, if our eyes were tuned to radio waves we’d be able to see FM and AM radio waves, responsible for audio, travel throughout the air. Light, radio waves and the aforementioned wave types are based upon the same electromagnetic wave, but each one occurs at different frequency ranges. The complete electromagnetic spectrum is found below.


Electromagnetic spectrum


The photon is said to be in ‘quantum form’ because the electromagnetic wave is not a continuous wave. It is made of discrete parts, called photons. This became apparent in the late 1800s during an experiment called the Photoelectric Effect. Now, in the Standard Model, the photon is considered to be a particle.


What Causes a Photon?

A photon is caused by particle vibration. In the Particles section, particles were described as waves of energy, creating standing waves from in-waves and out-waves. The out-waves of these particles are longitudinal waves, but when a particle vibrates, it creates a secondary, transverse wave.

Here’s an analogy to understand this interaction… imagine a balloon, under water in the middle of a pool, which is rapidly inflated and deflated repeatedly. The balloon will send spherical, longitudinal waves throughout the pool, losing energy proportional to the inverse square of the distance from the balloon. Now, imagine the balloon, while still being rapidly inflated and deflated, is also traveling up-and-down, from the bottom of the pool to the top and back again. This will create a secondary, transverse wave perpendicular to the motion – towards the sides of the pool.

In the particles section, the energy of a particle was described by the following equation:


Fundamental Energy equation


The same is true of photons, but this equation takes a different form. It is no longer energy of in-waves and out-waves, but now it is a traveling wave that has a longitudinal component and transverse component.

In the balloon example, it is moving up-and-down in the pool, creating a secondary wave.  A particle that is vibrating will create a similar wave that is transverse.  It is still generating a longitudinal wave, but it now also contains a transverse wave with a poynting vector in the direction of propagation.  It is traveling and is no longer stored energy – it is kinetic energy.


Photon Transverse Wave


The electromagnetic wave has two key components: the electric component and the magnetic component. These are the transverse (t) and longitudinal (l) components in the energy equation in the diagram above. The electric component has a frequency that depends on the speed of the vibration of the particle, which may happen during orbital transitions in an atom until a particle like the electron settles into an orbital. The faster the vibration, the higher the frequency of the transverse component. There are also two photons generated in each direction perpendicular to the vibration of the particle.  A two-dimensional view of photon creation is found below.


Photon 2D view


Lastly, a photon does not have mass like a particle. Mass is defined in energy wave theory as stored energy from standing waves. A photon is a traveling wave, without any wave centers. Thus, it is only kinetic energy and does not contain mass.



Where is the Proof?

Photon wavelengths and energies were calculated using the transverse equations. The two transverse equations for wavelength and energy were derived from the same energy wave equation as longitudinal energy for particles, which connects particles and photons and how they can transfer energy from one form to another (transverse to longitudinal and vice versa). The calculations include the following:

  • Calculations
    • Calculations of hydrogen photon wavelengths for ionization and orbital transitions
    • Calculations of 250+ photon energies for ionization of hydrogen to calcium (neutral and ionized elements).
    • Calculations of the conversion of particle energy to photon energy for annihilation and orbital transitionsl
  • Explanations
    • An explanation for the photoelectric effect and how the photon is kinetic wave energy in a cylindrical volume, without requiring the wave-particle duality explanation.
    • An explanation for gamma rays emitted from particle annihilation and gamma rays creating particles in the pair production process.



Video Summary