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Apr. 20th, 2017 @ 07:21 pm QM: Why wave/particle duality is no more mysterious than cat/lion/horse duality
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Lions

Imagine Aaliyah and Bruce lived somewhere no-one had ever seen a lion. One day Aaliyah travels somewhere there are lions and comes home and tries to describe it to Bruce. She probably says things like, "it's like a domestic cat, but the size of a horse".

Now, that's not a perfect description. But it's not bad. I think most people in Bruce's position will get the idea. There's some new sort of animal, one he hasn't seen before. Which is like a cat in many ways (pounces, plays, body shape, etc), and like a horse in some other ways (bigness, mane). And a few ways it isn't really like either (earth-shaking roar). He knows there's a lot about lions he doesn't understand. But he's not confused that there *is* some new creature he doesn't know a lot about, that sometimes looks like a horse and sometimes like a cat.

Specifically, he doesn't stand around saying, "Wow! Isn't it so strange and mind-bending that there is some mysterious animal that is both a cat and a horse AT THE SAME TIME? No-one on earth could ever understand lions".

Electrons

Now, I'm not sure, because I don't really understand quantum mechanics. But as far as I've been able to tell, this is basically the case for electrons too.

I don't know what electrons are. But whatever it is, it's some physics thing which really, really doesn't behave how our intuition for macroscopic objects says objects should behave. And in particular, sometimes it acts really, really like a small solid object ("a particle"). For instance, it bounces off things, it exists at a particular place (sort of), etc. And sometimes it acts really, really like a wave. For instance, when it goes throw a narrow gap or round a corner, it diffracts and creates interference bands.

As far as I can tell, this is all "wave particle duality" means. The thing that's really there is... quite weird. But if you try to shoehorn it into "specifically as a physical object" category, you get all sorts of further confusion[1]. It's not sometimes one, and sometimes the other. Nor both at the same time. It's *like* a particle, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. And *like* a wave, sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. And occasionally not a lot like either.

What actually *is* it? There's a lot I don't understand, but I was coming to that.

Footnote [1]

Part of the reason this is so confusing is that it doesn't act like a *single* object. Rather it acts like an object where you have some smooth probability function describing where it might be, but as if that distribution of probability was a physical thing that things could happen to. See following posts.

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