Lotta great questions and I want to interfere constructively with many of them.
Three big statements that will send some of the questions into new directions all at once: Photons aren’t balls and they don’t have surfaces with surface velocities with spin. And, observers can’t move at c. And, there is no real wave-particle duality. Well, let me reword that last one: when we refer to a wave-particle duality, though we may say radiation sometimes behaves as waves and sometimes behaves as particles, it would be more correct to say that radiation always does exactly the same thing, and we have two ideas, “waves” and “particles”, such that sometimes one seems more correct and sometimes the other does, but the problem is with the ideas.
Now, then, polarization. The drawings that illustrate how a wavy shaped sturdy rigid bent wire would fit through a wire grating are very irritating. They share several features with the real situation but also with the incorrect picture of two dimensional wave shapes being involved in polarization. This is most misleading. In polarized light there is some kind of order or organization to the direction in which the electromagnetic field is changing. Most simply, linearly polarized light, like what you see through Polaroid sunglasses, has all the field fluctuation happening in the same direction.
In radio, charge moving back and forth in an antenna creates the electromagnetic field radiating away from it. If the charge moves up and down, like it does in an AM radio station whose entire tower is a conductor, then the radio emission is vertically polarized.
When light goes through a transparent solid, it generally actually behaves as vibrations in the electrons and to a much lesser extend the nuclei of the atoms of the structure. This is why the nature of the solid influences the transmission of light. The electrons are very light and their connection to the rest of the solid gives them a high stiffness to mass ratio so the vibrations pass very rapidly. When light shines perpendicularly on a glass face, the vibrations it creates also create their own light headed back the other way, which is why you see a bit of a reflection. If you start angling the light further and further from perpendicular, at some point the vibrations in the surface caused by field strength variation in the plane of the incoming and reflecting beams will be aligned with the direction of the reflected light beam; that is, they will be trying to push and pull on the reflected light beam, if you will, and won’t have any transverse motion. At further angles their transverse motion is in the opposite transverse motion for the reflected beam. At the angle where we go through this minimum, none of the light waves whose field direction are in the plane of the beams have a transverse component in the reflected beam, and they aren’t reflected at all, and so only the perpendicularly oriented field waves are part of the reflected beam, which makes it polarized.
Hmm. This is hard to say well, and even harder when I should be going and am worried about the SDMB timing out. Maybe I’ll try again when there’s more time.