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What is the difference between gamma particle and gamma rays? Are thee the same thing or not ? This confuses me.
Question Date: 2015-03-27
Answer 1:

Don't feel bad that you are confused. For quite some time, everybody in science was confused about pretty much the same issue, with respect to visible light. Some experiments showed it to have the characteristics of waves, and others the characteristics of particles.

Nowadays quantum mechanics tells us that all particles - including electrons, neutrons, protons, the building blocks of matter - have characteristics of waves. If you think of light as particles, these particles are called photons, and they have a specific wavelength which determines the color of the light. Of course when we think of light we might think of it as "light rays", so that's what I assume you mean when you say gamma rays, that that makes it sound like gamma rays are a form of light. And that is true, and as I explained it also means that you can just as well think of it as gamma particles. The wavelength of gamma rays is much shorter than that of visible light.

What we see as light is a part of the spectrum of possible wavelengths of photons so to speak. The wavelength of red light is longer than that of green light, which in turn is longer than that of blue and violet light. As the wavelength gets even shorter, we can't see it with our eyes anymore - that is ultraviolet light.

Even shorter wavelengths take us into X-rays, and then the gamma rays. The whole thing with particles and waves is not so easy to grasp in a visual or intuitive sense, but you can just remember that when it comes to light, being a particle and being a wave are not mutually exclusive.


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