Department of Physics Papers
Date of this Version
Standard pedagogy introduces optics as though it were a consequence of Maxwell’s equations, and only grudgingly admits, usually in a rushed aside, that light has a particulate character that can somehow be reconciled with the wave picture. Recent revolutionary advances in optical imaging, however, make this approach more and more unhelpful: How are we to describe two-photon imaging, FRET, localization microscopy, and a host of related techniques to students who think of light primarily as a wave? I was surprised to find that everything I wanted my biophysics students to know about light, including image formation, x-ray diffraction, and even Bessel beams, could be expressed as well (or better) from the quantum viewpoint pioneered by Richard Feynman. Even my undergraduate students grasp this viewpoint as well as (or better than) the traditional one, and by mid-semester they are already well positioned to integrate the latest advances into their understanding. Moreover, I have found that this approach clarifies my own understanding of new techniques.
Nelson, P. C. (2018). Time to Stop Telling Biophysics Students That Light Is Primarily a Wave. Biophysical Journal, 114 761-765. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bpj.2017.12.036
Date Posted: 04 September 2018
This document has been peer reviewed.