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Single Photon Interference

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Published on Mar 13, 2013

What happens when single photons of light pass through a double slit and are detected by a photomultiplier tube? In 1801 Thomas Young seemed to settle a long-running debate about the nature of light with his double slit experiment. He demonstrated that light passing through two slits creates patterns like water waves, with the implication that it must be a wave phenomenon.

However, experimental results in the early 1900s found that light energy is not smoothly distributed as in a classical wave, rather it comes in discrete packets, called quanta and later photons. These are indivisible particles of light. So what would happen if individual photons passed through a double slit? Would they make a pattern like waves or like particles?

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