A question about wave/particle duality

In summary, quantum particles have properties that can be described as both a classical particle and a classical wave. This is known as wave-particle duality. When a particle is in wave form, it is not a physical wave, but rather a probability wave that gives information about its location. In particle form, a quantum particle can exhibit behaviors similar to a classical particle, such as knocking electrons out of atoms. However, quantum particles do not actually switch between wave and particle forms, but rather their properties can be described using these concepts. The behavior of these particles can only be fully understood through mathematical descriptions, and intuitive concepts may not always apply.
  • #1
Subatomic particles can take the form of a wave or a particle. While in wave form, it is not like a physical wave, but rather a probability wave, (i.e. a wave of information about where the particle is probably located etc.) And while in particle form, a photon, for example, can knock electrons out of atoms in a similar fashion to a coconut shy. This implies that whilst in 'particle form' a subatomic particle has a more solid aspect than whilst in 'wave form'.

My question is: Are there particular points at which subatomic particles shift from waves to particles? Do they keep shifting to-and-fro, in the sense of manifesting as a wave then as a particle, and back to a wave again? If so, how long can they spend at each phase?

I've read many times that only when you measure it, does a particle snap into definite existence at a particular location - but only at the point of measurement. I don't understand this. Does this imply that if a particle isn't measured let's say for an hour, then during that hour a particle must be a wave, which isn't an actual solid object? And only once it's been observed does it become the 'more solid' aspect? And at what point might it turn into a wave again?

How can this behaviour build up the physical world, which seems to be so constantly solid?

I know I've asked a lot of questions there, hope that's okay. I'm trying to firm up my knowledge about quantum mechanics.

Thanks in advance,

kenny
 
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  • #2
Kenneth Boon Faker said:
Subatomic particles can take the form of a wave or a particle.
This is not a very good way of describing it. The wave-particle duality is a concept that was used when quantum theory was first developed about 100 years ago. A more accurate statement is that subatomic particles are best described as quantum particles in a quantum field theory. These quantum particles have some properties that you would typically associate with a classical particle and some properties that you would typically associate with a classical wave. In other words, a quantum particle does not take the form of a classical particle or wave, it has some properties associated to those concepts and depending on how you do experiments with it either the particle or wave properties make themselves prominent.
 
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  • #3
Kenneth Boon Faker said:
Subatomic particles can take the form of a wave or a particle. While in wave form, it is not like a physical wave, but rather a probability wave, (i.e. a wave of information about where the particle is probably located etc.) And while in particle form, a photon, for example, can knock electrons out of atoms in a similar fashion to a coconut shy. This implies that whilst in 'particle form' a subatomic particle has a more solid aspect than whilst in 'wave form'.

My question is: Are there particular points at which subatomic particles shift from waves to particles? Do they keep shifting to-and-fro, in the sense of manifesting as a wave then as a particle, and back to a wave again? If so, how long can they spend at each phase?

I've read many times that only when you measure it, does a particle snap into definite existence at a particular location - but only at the point of measurement. I don't understand this. Does this imply that if a particle isn't measured let's say for an hour, then during that hour a particle must be a wave, which isn't an actual solid object? And only once it's been observed does it become the 'more solid' aspect? And at what point might it turn into a wave again?

How can this behaviour build up the physical world, which seems to be so constantly solid?

I know I've asked a lot of questions there, hope that's okay. I'm trying to firm up my knowledge about quantum mechanics.

Thanks in advance,

kenny
Good questions. The problem with these tiny particles is, the assumptions you use in everyday life about how the physical world operates don't work. The only way to get a real grip on what is going on is with mathematical descriptions. Absent the math, wave/particle duality is a way to use familiar intuitive concepts to describe what the math is telling us. Sometimes the math tells us a photon acts like a bowling ball. Other times it tells us it acts like a wave. Those are just convenient analogies, so don't get hung up on whether a photon or an electron is a particle or a wave, or switches back and forth between those states. It doesn't. But to describe how it behaves it is convenient to imagine that it does.
 
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  • #4
Kenneth Boon Faker said:
Subatomic particles can take the form of a wave or a particle. While in wave form, it is not like a physical wave, but rather a probability wave, (i.e. a wave of information about where the particle is probably located etc.) And while in particle form, a photon, for example, can knock electrons out of atoms in a similar fashion to a coconut shy. This implies that whilst in 'particle form' a subatomic particle has a more solid aspect than whilst in 'wave form'.

My question is: Are there particular points at which subatomic particles shift from waves to particles? Do they keep shifting to-and-fro, in the sense of manifesting as a wave then as a particle, and back to a wave again? If so, how long can they spend at each phase?

I've read many times that only when you measure it, does a particle snap into definite existence at a particular location - but only at the point of measurement. I don't understand this. Does this imply that if a particle isn't measured let's say for an hour, then during that hour a particle must be a wave, which isn't an actual solid object? And only once it's been observed does it become the 'more solid' aspect? And at what point might it turn into a wave again?

How can this behaviour build up the physical world, which seems to be so constantly solid?

I know I've asked a lot of questions there, hope that's okay. I'm trying to firm up my knowledge about quantum mechanics.

Thanks in advance,

kenny

The problem here is that you are having the classical understanding that "wave-like" behavior and "particle-like" behavior are described via two different and separate ideas or formalism. Thus, you think they have to switch from one form to the other. They don't!

QM doesn't have to switch gears to describe each of these behaviors. If you were to learn QM first before you learned all about these waves and particles properties, you'd never be saddled with thinking that these are two separate descriptions.

So, the only way to overcome this is for you to drop the notion that wave-like observations and particle-like observations are due to different descriptions. They need not be.

Zz.
 
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  • #5
Kenneth Boon Faker said:
This implies that whilst in 'particle form' a subatomic particle has a more solid aspect than whilst in 'wave form'.
It seems like you have been watching too many of the “Transformers” movies. Particles don’t transform between particle or wave form.

They are at all times quantum particles. They are not at any time classical waves nor are they ever classical particles.

They are always quantum particles, which always exhibit behavior that you might colloquially associate with waves or particles. However, the colloquial association with waves or particles has no bearing on any part of the math or predictions.
 
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  • #6
These are great answers. Thank you. I know where to come when I have questions about QM. Cheers
 
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1. What is wave/particle duality?

Wave/particle duality is a concept in quantum physics that states that particles can exhibit both wave-like and particle-like behavior. This means that they can have properties of both waves and particles, depending on how they are observed.

2. How was wave/particle duality discovered?

The concept of wave/particle duality was first discovered by scientists in the early 20th century through experiments with light and electrons. The famous double-slit experiment conducted by Thomas Young in 1801 provided evidence for the wave-like nature of light, while the photoelectric effect observed by Albert Einstein in 1905 showed the particle-like nature of light. This led to the development of the theory of quantum mechanics, which explains the behavior of particles at the subatomic level.

3. What are some examples of particles exhibiting wave/particle duality?

Some examples of particles exhibiting wave/particle duality include photons (particles of light), electrons, protons, and neutrons. These particles can behave like waves in certain situations, such as when they are diffracted or interfere with each other, and like particles in other situations, such as when they are detected by a particle detector.

4. How does wave/particle duality affect our understanding of the universe?

The concept of wave/particle duality challenges our traditional understanding of the behavior of matter and energy. It suggests that particles can exist in multiple states at the same time and that their behavior is inherently probabilistic. This has led to the development of new theories and technologies, such as quantum computing, that rely on the principles of quantum mechanics.

5. What are the practical applications of wave/particle duality?

Wave/particle duality has many practical applications in modern technology. For example, the principles of quantum mechanics are used in transistors, lasers, and other electronic devices. It also has applications in fields such as cryptography, medical imaging, and quantum communications. Understanding wave/particle duality has also led to advancements in our understanding of the universe and has opened up new avenues of research in quantum physics.

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