Scientists have long believed that light can behave as both a particle and a wave but until today – it’s been a bit difficult to visualize and impossible to photograph. Now, researchers in Switzerland have taken the first ever picture of light as both a wave and a particle – and it’s a beauty!
To capture the historic photograph, researchers shot laser pulses at a tiny metallic nanowire and watched as the light moved in different directions along the metal wire (more accurately, they watched the emissions of electrons that occurs when light hits a metal surface). Then when the waves ran into each other, they snapped the historic photograph using a new ultrafast microscope.
Quantum mechanics tells us that light can behave simultaneously as a particle or a wave. However, there has never been an experiment able to capture both natures of light at the same time; the closest we have come is seeing either wave or particle, but always at different times. The scientists announced:
“This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics – and its paradoxical nature – directly.”