Lesson 10, Topic 1
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Comparing Models of Light

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Classical (Wave) ModelPhoton (Particle) Model
Light is an electromagnetic wave.Light is a stream of particles called photons.
Displays properties of reflection, refraction, diffraction, interference and polarisation.Behaves like a particle when absorbed or emitted (or scattered) by an electron.
Energy of light is evenly distributed across its wavefronts and depends on light intensity.Light energy is localised to each photon and depends on the frequency, according to [katex]E=hf[/katex]

The following table compares different behaviours of light and whether each of the models is able to adequately explain them.

PhenomenonExplained by Wave Model?Explained by Particle Model?
ReflectionYesYes
RefractionYesYes
DiffractionYesNo
InterferenceYesNo
PolarisationYesNo
Blackbody spectrumNoYes
Photoelectric effectNoYes