Found in 10 comments on Hacker News

Jun8 · 2023-05-19
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Oh boy, it seems you're one of today's lucky 10000 (https://xkcd.com/1053/ :-). The concept of EM waves slowing down in a medium is a curious one: it sounds obvious (you can hike a shorter distance in harder train even though exerting same effort) but generates interesting questions, e.g. what is the mechanism that "slows them down", how do photons speed up after they exit a the medium (https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/330994/how-does-...). I think the problem here is similar to the concept of "relativistic mass", a simple way to think about things and work problems but at the same time creates another set of problems and confusions.

red75prime's short answer in this thread is correct, for a longer one see this Physics SE questions and answers (https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/11820/what-reall...). In ELI5 terms: photons *always* move at speed c, but in a medium now and then (depending on properties of the medium, density, etc.) they interact with its atoms. In this case the atom absorbs the photon and after a short time generates another photon. So the speed of each photon is always c but the "overall light wave" becomes less than c.

If you're a non physicist like me who would like to delve further into this, I suggest Feynman's excellent and very readable book *QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter* (https://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/06...)

sillysaurusx · 2020-12-10
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Is this correct from a physics standpoint? Feynman had a lot to say about light in his book (QED https://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/06...) and never framed it this way. At one point he remarked that the explanations in the book were related to diffraction, and the explanation there was very different from the Fourier transform.

zem · 2015-09-19
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feynman's "QED": http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Princeton-Science-Library/...

amit_m · 2015-05-20
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"QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter" by Richard Feynman:
http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/069...

I read this book in high-school and learned about as much as I did in 4 undergrad physics courses about quantum mechanics. There's no mathematics in this book, so it doesn't teach you how to calculate anything (for this, a physics degree helps), but the principles are presented very nicely.

drjesusphd · 2014-08-20
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This is actually a very deep question. If you want a better answer than I'm about to give, read Feynman's QED lecture videos [1] or read the book [2].

The short answer is, they don't. They emit the photon in a random direction.

Fine, you say, but what about refraction and reflection, there the photons are emitted in another direction. What makes the atom "decide" what direction to emit a photon after it's absorbed?

They don't decide anything, they still just emit in a random direction. The mind fuck is that on the whole, statistically, *almost all photons except for those travelling in the direction of refraction/reflection destructively interfere*!

[1] http://vega.org.uk/video/subseries/8 [2] http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/069...

nilkn · 2013-09-13
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By far my favorite piece of writing from Feynman is QED:

http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Princeton-Science-Library/...

Out of all his writings, this is the one that has always stuck with me.

Feynman long held that one does not understand something if one cannot explain it to someone who is not deeply steeped in the subject already. I regard this lecture as probably the culmination of that philosophy for Feynman. Anybody with a deep mathematical background will be stunned on reading this book to realize that, oh, he was actually just talking about complex numbers and the path integral formulation all along.

Taken from one of those reviews, I don't need to say much more than this: "He does close to the impossible by explaining the rudimentary ideas of Quantum Electro Dynamics (QED) in a manner that is reasonably accessible to those with some physics background"

Jun8 · 2013-07-25
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I think a good way to think about sentences like that is that the word *quantum* is short for "belonging to quantum mechanics", like how "classical gravitation" doesn't mean that there's anything classic about gravitation. The quantum quantifier is there to differentiate the superposition they mention from "classical" wave superposition.

It's very complicated stuff but not "very, very complicated" stuff, you can read Feynman's QED book (http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/069..., <$9 used with shipping) and obtain a pretty good working knowledge of things.

nsrivast · 2011-10-01
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mechanical_fish · 2008-11-21
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Recommmended reading: Feynman's classic *QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter*.

http://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/069...

If you don't really understand what this article is talking about, Feynman can help you.

To follow this thread, read through QED (https://www.amazon.com/QED-Strange-Theory-Light-Matter/dp/06...) – it's quite readable.