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It seems to me that we get lots of questions from people baffled about the way light behaves given that it's made up of photons. For the latest example see:

How does a photon 'know' when to reflect in case of refraction?

Do we need a canonical Q/A explaining the relationship between light beams and photons? Then we can close questions like the above as duplicates of the canonical question.

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  • $\begingroup$ We already have that question: What is the relation between electromagnetic wave and photon? and you even answered it! I'm not sure what you want to achieve with this meta post or the suggested "canonical" post that you cannot or have not already achieve by posting an answer to that question. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jul 22 '16 at 11:49
  • $\begingroup$ @ACuriousMind: oops, missed that, thanks :-) Mind you, my answer there is a bit crap and doesn't really explore the question in any useful detail. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Jul 22 '16 at 12:45
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    $\begingroup$ Well, I think to go into "useful detail" you might end up writing a book on quantum optics and QED... $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Jul 22 '16 at 12:46
  • $\begingroup$ I disagree. There are lots of subtle issues here, and I would hate to see a more specific question closed because it has, say, 50% overlap with the question ACM linked. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Jul 23 '16 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that there should be a canonical answer, but what most people are asking is the wider question of how a classical field (any field) corresponds to the quantum picture. That's more an interpretation question than it is one about quantum optics, which, as @ACuriousMind properly points out, fills books and shelves. The problem with the interpretation question is that I am not sure that all that many will even agree what quanta are supposed to be. We had plenty of discussions in which strong opinions were exchanged and many are not willing to let go of objectified quanta, yet. $\endgroup$ – CuriousOne Jul 24 '16 at 22:03
  • $\begingroup$ I am sceptical that a canonical question would be of much use. It would give a clear reason for closing certain questions, but it is unlikely to reduce the number of such questions being asked. Few people search before asking. They want to ask their own question and get personal answers, not read what someone else asked. $\endgroup$ – sammy gerbil Jul 25 '16 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ No, don't bother with "canonical" answers. They tend to be wrong, and they tend to get in the way of correct answers. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Jul 26 '16 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDuffield Isn't that what community wiki answers are all about? People can collectively build the "best" answer at the present, and it can be updated as time progresses, with new insights etc. $\endgroup$ – snulty Aug 7 '16 at 21:04
  • $\begingroup$ Just to cite the meta post about community wiki here "Why have Community Wiki posts? One of the goals of the website is to be a continually evolving source of good information. Community wiki posts help enhance the wiki aspect of the site." $\endgroup$ – snulty Aug 7 '16 at 21:09
  • $\begingroup$ @snulty : that's the general idea, but I don't think it works in practice. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Aug 8 '16 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDuffield Is the case in point your recent question on 'what exactly is a photon'? It wasn't set up to be a wiki answer, but in principle since you've gathered links to a lot of past questions, and now some new answers, maybe the best of the best answers (as selected by moderators, or voted on? Maybe on meta?) can be collected into a new wiki question and a wiki answer? $\endgroup$ – snulty Aug 8 '16 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ @snulty : it could be. But what if none of the answers explain what a photon is? Science is not a democracy. All the upvotes in the world won't make a wrong answer right. As it happens I don't have much of an issue with the idea of a "current-best-answer". IMHO the problem comes when the high-rep guy who wrote it declares it to be the definitive "canonical" answer, forever. Then if it's incorrect or inadequate, we've got problems. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Aug 8 '16 at 10:01
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDuffield I agree just because a bunch of people say something is correct, doesn't mean it is. However physics itself is a subject where you can really only hope for a "current-best-answer". If tomorrow we detected particles travelling faster than light (for real this time), then we'd have to change our current best understanding of relativity. Again I think though, a community wiki answer should not be "owned" by any one user, but created by the community and maintained (against vandalism say) by moderators. $\endgroup$ – snulty Aug 8 '16 at 11:15
  • $\begingroup$ I think this is why math SE has the tag (faq). I think there's large gaps between new faq questions, but it can be an incremental process. Although actually not all the Q's and A's are community wiki it seems. $\endgroup$ – snulty Aug 8 '16 at 11:16
  • $\begingroup$ @snulty : it's an imperfect world. One guy's correction is another guy's vandalism. $\endgroup$ – John Duffield Aug 8 '16 at 12:03

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