The Photon and The Wave

Walter Fox Smith & Marian McKenzie, 3-15-05

(To the tune of “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, by Ira Gershwin)



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Scientific minds, from the lesser to the greater


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Pondered on the mysteries of light and its true nature --


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A particle, a wa-ve, light won’t you just beha-ve?


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Why can’t you make up your mind?


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Or are these aspects just intertwined?



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Newton wrote of particles in his great volume “Opticks”,


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Explaining prismic action which had even stumped the Coptics,


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His theory of refraction, it got a great reaction


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From the royal society --


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They bought it for a century!



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But oh – then along came Thomas Young with his two slits!


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And oh – interference could be clearly seen – the wave was it!


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Then along came Maxwell with a microscopic theory


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A wave of electricity and magnetism, dearie!


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The E field makes the B field, The B field makes the E field


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In a wave that can travel through space --


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A triumph of the human race!



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But later in the century, they found a great catastrophe!


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The UV radiation would have no limitation!


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Planck stopped all this doomin’ simply by assumin


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Light was particles of energy --


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hbar omega, now don’t you see!



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But oh – what if it is really both at the same time?


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You know – both particle and wave, it would be sublime!

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Einstein got it together – his interests were eclectic!


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He set about explainin’ the effect photoelectric.


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He exclaimed with great theatrics,


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“Planck’s photons weren’t just math tricks,


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h-bar is the perfect size!”


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It led him to a Nobel prize!




ã 2005 Walter Fox Smith