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Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

What is light exactly?

Asked by Hypocrisy_Central (26871points) November 14th, 2010

What is light exactly? I read and hear of phenomena like black holes where the gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape. Assuming that is true, why can’t it? Light is not a solid (or is it?). The only way we see what we see is because light reflects off it. Light can travel through methane, oxygen, hydrogen or any other transparent gas. Can you nail light down to a molecule? How could you capture light that none escape less you absorb it into something? It that how black holes dose, it is not so much by gravity but absorption?

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22 Answers

kenmc's avatar

Black holes are black holes because you literally can’t see them.What you can see is a group of slowly rotating stars dissapearing into a circle of nothing. The name given that that nothing is a black hole.

Light can’t escape a black hole because of it’s unmeasurable gravitational pull.

We don’t technically see black holes… Like I said above.

Can you nail light down to a molecule? I don’t even know what you mean by that.

Nothing reflects light 100%. It will absorb into whatever you trap it in and the energy will probably become heat.

Black holes are all gravity. They’re funny and hard to understand, but they are gravity.

mammal's avatar

The darkness is not the Light, my child, and there are Lights.
You are one of the Lights, dear Mina, the Light of all Light.

therefore light is Mina

anothermember's avatar

I was taught that “Light” is both a particle and a wave. It has properties of a wave and properties of particles.( or so it is “thought” at this current time ).
Although doing some hunting I found this “So what’s the answer? Is light a wave, or is light a flow of particles? Well, the bottom line is that it’s neither one. Light is ­are you ready?­ a “quantum vector field.”” at

I think all this just says is that we don’t really know.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar

Photons are the fundamental particles associated with the electromagnetic field. All electrical and magnetic interactions are caused by the exchange of ‘virtual’ photons (so-called because they are not directly observable being emitted and absorbed without re-emission by the particles undergoing the interaction) and all manner of light from radio waves to the infrared to the visible spectrum to UV to X rays and gamma rays are composed of ‘real’ (observable) photons. As quantum particles, they have wave-like properties along with particle-like properties (see double-slit experiment and photoelectric effect).

The optical properties of a gas, liquid or solid are determined by the physical configuration of electrons in the media. I will leave it at that as I don’t know enough to attempt to break that down further in simple terms. As for “sticky light”, some weird and interesting things have been done with light using Bose-Einstein condensates.

Light traveling in a vacuum, where it is not slowed down by interactions with matter, assumes the highest speed that the laws of physics allow (about 186,000 miles per second). Indeed this is the speed it must travel in between interaction events and this is a property it shares with other mass-less quantum particles.

A reasonable description of a black hole is an object with an escape velocity greater than the speed of light. This is a Newtonian rather than Einsteinian point of view, but it is still substantially correct.

Zyx's avatar

Here’s an outside of the box answer:

Nobody knows yet.

kess's avatar

Light is.
The perception of knowledge,
The active slice of the consciousness.
Light is you.

The Light that matter is not one without but the Light within,
Not all within light are able to see,
But only those who found the Light within are able see.

Pure Light cannot be contained within the body,
The eyes cannot behold pure light.
Pure light is self sufficient and self replicating..
Light is that which Is (established without time).

For Light is Life and life is eternal.

The light of the sight of the eye is impure (mixed with darkness), thus it vibrates and forms what we perceive as the electromagnetic spectrum.
We perceive these through our bodily senses,thus we have sound, heat and every other sensation of the body.

flutherother's avatar

I don’t think we know what light is exactly. It behaves like a particle at times but a particle with no mass. It can’t escape from a black hole as space is deformed around the black hole and nothing from inside can get out. Light does exert a small pressure when it falls upon a surface so photons do have momentum. This is explained by saying that though photons have no mass they do have energy and this energy gives rise to mass.

It beats me I’m afraid and I also wonder if light ever reaches the full ‘speed of light’ as there is never a complete vacuum in space.

truecomedian's avatar

Light is an unconstipated rainbow. A fart in the dark explodes with a spark. Candles can be kinky, nothing like wax in the pubes. Energy that can vibrate molecules at different wavelengths to create heat. Ever play with a high end green laser pointer, can light a match from twenty feet away. A house burning down at night is light at some of it’s worst. My house burnt down, I lost all my polyester shirts. Bob Dylan is a light to the poor and broken, and the quick and well dressed.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Light is composed of “wavicles,” or rather the trace left by these wavicles on our retina. They have also been referred to as “quanta,” but I prefer the more colorful “wavicle.” : D

Zyx's avatar

“Wavicle” is now permanent.

gondwanalon's avatar

If I could answer this question correctly I would be awarded the physic’s Nobel Prize.

filmfann's avatar

@anothermember gave the answer I was taught. It behaves as both a particle and a wave of energy.

Mat74UK's avatar

All I know about light is that it is totally invisible until it strikes an object then your eyes disginguish it as a feature that can be seen. Light is what your eyes make it.

Zyx's avatar

@Mat74UK Your username says “UK” but your post says “disginguish”.

notdan's avatar

It would be prudent to note that light behaves at times like a particle, and at other times like a wave—not like both at once.

Mat74UK's avatar

@Zyx – long Sunday after the Grand Prix finale

truecomedian's avatar

It’s actually feces moving really fast.

Zyx's avatar

@Mat74UK Nevermind me, I’m just bitching*.

*verb, to be a bitch.


Still not funny… All matter is feces, but all energy is food. Learn te difference or choke on shit.

truecomedian's avatar

Just a tip, it’s especially imprtan thar u dont hav ane typos when talkking shiit

Rarebear's avatar

The reason why light cannot escape a black hole is that the gravitation is so strong that spacetime warps in on itself. Light doesn’t get “pulled” into the black hole. It just follows the path of spacetime, which in the case of a black hole, is so strongly curved that it curves back down to the singularity.

s321scba's avatar

a wave is made up of particles

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