Is it acceptable to think of the whole EM spectrum as simply being light in different forms? From harmless(radio wave) to visible(visible light) to harmful(#gamma #- ray)

1 Answer
Aug 10, 2018

Murky area.

Whilst not visible, the UV and IR ranges are commonly referred to as light. And the range in between that we can actually see is of course .... "Visible Light" :)

But if you referred to, say, radio waves as light, you might raise eyebrows in certain circles. I think you'd lose a few points in your high school physics exam, and you might not be invited to the top table at CERN. That's wrong BTW because there's nothing wrong with using unusual expressions and trying out your own ideas. Unless you hate physics and are trying to stuff it in a box --- which will never work :( Don't strive for simplicity, wallow in the pleasure of not truly getting it, well that's my excuse.

The word photo means light in ancient Greek, or at least its in that etymological spirit. And all photons use that same handle regardless of where they lie in the EM spectrum. So you do have radio wave photons trying to crash through the walls of your living space from router to whatever device, and microwave photons heating up your delicious TV dinner, as the photons from your LED's create a wonder warm "lighting" effect in the eating area.

Best advice always IMHO is get familiar and comfortable with all the jargon, as it's how we all communicate. Try to think in terms of Maxwell's EM, Huygen's boring old waves, and Einstein/Planck's photons, and think of these EM-waves/particles/wavicles outside of those models, as some kind of entity sui generis. Newton proposed particles (corpuscles) and pretty much got laughed at in the end; but he was kinda right.

We former cave-dwellers habitually and understandably take everything back to what we can sense, and that is to be found in classical physics which we can just intuit. The planetary model of the atom, the idea that all clocks tick at the same rate in a strictly 3-D space, and so on. Well, it's all superficial, really. Certainly when you scale stuff up or down.

So go for, it but don't make a fool of yourself in your High School Exam or in your interview at NASA :)