A very basic question about Heisenberg Uncertainty

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  • #1
Ozgen Eren
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So I understand that Heisenberg Uncertainty states that we cannot know the position and velocity of an electron at the same time.

Although I haven't go through its proof and assumptions, I have read on couple place that that's because if we are able to observe it, that means it have to reflect at least couple photons to us. That means by the time we saw it, it already have changed its direction and position. Is this the main reasoning?

If so, my question is as follows,

How can someone claim that something cannot be known, if he couldn't find a way to know it himself. I mean yeah, we cannot observe the electron by directly measuring the photons on it. But you know maybe someone in the future will just do it by another way. Maybe he will measure the magnetic field of a single electron or maybe he will calculate the deviation depending on the angle he receive the photon reflected on the electron or maybe something more complex and bright.

I mean, how can we build an entire physics on an argument that assumes impossibility of measurement. Isn't that a bit odd that everyone is comfortable with it? I haven't found an electron yet with its exact speed and position but I don't know if someone will say "here it is" tomorrow. Just because something is incredibly hard or sensitive doesn't mean claiming of impossibility is logical. This ought to be science not engineering. Am I missing something or does entire physics world really thinks that's our limit.
 

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  • #2
VantagePoint72
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Although I haven't go through its proof and assumptions, I have read on couple place that that's because if we are able to observe it, that means it have to reflect at least couple photons to us. That means by the time we saw it, it already have changed its direction and position. Is this the main reasoning?.

This is not the reason for the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. It may be the popular presentation of it, and Heisenberg himself initially interpreted it this way before later realizing how much more fundamental it is, but you're describing a separate phenomenon called the "observer effect". The uncertainty principle is about how precisely the position and momentum (or, more generally, any pair of incompatible observables) can even be defined for a particle. This makes no assumption about the nature of how a measurement is done, or even whether a measurement is made at all.

That said, the HUP does certainly have implications for the precision of our measurements, however the popular understanding that ##\Delta p \Delta x \geq \hbar/2## means that if you measure momentum to precision ##\Delta p## then you necessarily disturb the position by at least ##\hbar/(2\Delta x)## is wrong. There is, however, a minimum amount of disturbance you can derive from HUP, called Ozawa's inequality. That the precision of incompatible measurements can exceed the bound a naïve application of the HUP was experimentally verified by Steinberg in a landmark experiment two years ago. Unfortunately, do the popular misconception I've mentioned, this was widely reported in the press as "physicists break the Heisenberg uncertainty principle". In any case, Ozawa's inequality, like the HUP, also does not make any assumptions about how a measurement is performed. The limitation to measurement precision that it implies comes not from a technological assumption but from our understanding of what quantum states are at a fundamental level. So if someone comes out tomorrow and says, "Hey, I've got this cool technique to measure the position and momentum of a particle simultaneously to arbitrary precision," and it turns they're right, then they haven't "just" made an engineering breakthrough. They'd have refuted quantum mechanics itself.
 
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  • #3
atyy
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In fact it can be shown that a particle in quantum mechanics cannot have simultaneously well-defined position and momentum (except in special cases). Since these quantities do not simultaneously exist, they cannot be simultaneously measured.

But it doesn't matter. A measurement is a procedure that yields a probability distribution of outcomes. Measurements of position and momentum are simply different procedures, requiring apparatuses that cannot be in the same place at the same time. What quantum mechanics does is predict the distribution of outcomes for a given procedure.

You may object that this is not "measurement", which is fine objection. Just treat "measurement" as a technical term meaning "experimental procedure". These procedures are called position and momentum measurements because in the classical limit of quantum mechanics, the classical definitions are recovered.
 
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  • #4
Ozgen Eren
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In any case, Ozawa's inequality, like the HUP, also does not make any assumptions about how a measurement is performed. The limitation to measurement precision that it implies comes not from a technological assumption but from our understanding of what quantum states are at a fundamental level

So that's actually about the way quantum mechanics assume an object is. Nothing is ever certain until it happens. But seems pretty vague again, we can just say "well that was another possibility of position and momentum." for anything happened. I mean just stating that everything is possible but there are more probable things than others cancels out the entire causation logic. You only depend on numerous experiments but there is no good explanation after all.

For example with this logic, its possible that 1 seconds later half of my atoms will appear 1m left and the rest at 1m right, ripping me apart. And quantum would say: "thats quite a low possibility but why not?"

Is there any better reasoning in this "quantum randomness" that I am missing out? It feels like people just come up with this because they weren't able to find good explanations in microscopic level and they came up with a cool probability trick depending on experiments.
 
  • #5
phinds
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Welcome to reality.
 
  • #6
Ozgen Eren
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Welcome to reality.

Thats not reality that's just tragic if people really believes the thing I just said.
 
  • #7
Nugatory
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For example with this logic, its possible that 1 seconds later half of my atoms will appear 1m left and the rest at 1m right, ripping me apart. And quantum anyone who understands classical physics would say: "that's quite a low possibility but why not?"

That statement is in fact correct, and you don't need quantum mechanics to make it. This is bone stock classical statistical mechanics that has been known for better than a century now; Boyle's Law and thermodynamic concepts such as heat and temperature are all derived from these statistical analyses.

Quantum mechanics is weird at the microscopic level, but the lack of observable weirdness at the macroscopic level is no more weird than the way that ##10^{26}## iron atoms flying in close formation while each one individually obeys Newton's laws can be modeled as a single giant particle called a "cannon ball" or "roundshot".
 
  • #8
phinds
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Thats not reality that's just tragic if people really believes the thing I just said.
No, it's tragic if you plan a career in science and can't face reality.
 
  • #9
Ozgen Eren
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Boyle's Law and thermodynamic concepts such as heat and temperature are all derived from these statistical analyses.

Its okay to generalize stuff, anticipate results by statistics and all. But considering it as a fundamental science is not.

No, it's tragic if you plan a career in science and can't face reality.

You can't face reality as you don't admit you just don't know or derive the actual dynamics.
 
  • #10
atyy
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So that's actually about the way quantum mechanics assume an object is.

The important point is that quantum mechanics does not say this. Quantum mechanics does not say what an object is. Quantum mechanics predicts the distribution of outcomes of experimental procedures.

However, we can also say that whatever an object is, if quantum mechanics holds exactly, then the properties of an object cannot be simultaneously position and momentum. It is possible for the property to be position and some other property that is different from the non-commuting canonically conjugate momentum, and it is possible for particles to have trajectories. That is not ruled out by quantum mechanics. However, because there are many possible hypotheses for the properties of an object that can be consistent with the predictions of quantum mechanics, we will need experiments that go beyond quantum mechanics in order distinguish these hypotheses.

I should also note that determinism versus randomness is not the true problem. If you prefer to think that randomness is fundamental, you can always imagine a deterministic theory emerging from a theory with randomness. If you prefer to think that determinism if fundamental, you can always imagine that a random theory is emerging from a deterministic theory. The main conceptual problem in quantum mechanics is that it appears that if we believe in common sense reality, the wave function of quantum mechanics cannot describe all of it.

 
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  • #11
Ozgen Eren
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if quantum mechanics holds exactly, then the properties of an object cannot be simultaneously position and momentum.

So for now, does it just suggest that existence of matter properties appear and disappear depending on some conditions? Like if speed is reduced to an interval, physical positions probable interval is widened. So it never assumes something is physically somewhere at a particular speed in the first place? Its not about how we measure or statistics, it says matter has a different nature than classical physics defends?
 
  • #12
atyy
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So for now, does it just suggest that existence of matter properties appear and disappear depending on some conditions? Like if speed is reduced to an interval, physical positions probable interval is widened. So it never assumes something is physically somewhere at a particular speed in the first place? Its not about how we measure or statistics, it says matter has a different nature than classical physics defends?

No. Quantum mechanics is simply not about matter properties. Quantum mechanics is about the distribution of outcomes when you make a measurement.
 
  • #13
Ozgen Eren
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No. Quantum mechanics is simply not about matter properties. Quantum mechanics is about the distribution of outcomes when you make a measurement.

So didn't anyone tried to explain the reason for this distribution of outcomes?
 
  • #14
Nugatory
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You can't face reality as you don't admit you just don't know or derive the actual dynamics.

But we do know the actual dynamics and it's these dynamics that allow us to derive the uncertainty principle (instead of accepting the "oops - moved it when we bounced a photon off it" misconception that you started the thread with). It's unfortunate that these dynamics don't conform to your sense of what a respectable physical theory should look like, but then again people had similar objections to the Copernican model of the solar system when it first came out.

PhysicsForums is here to help people understand modern physics. We can help you understanding what science says and why it says it, but we are not a platform for arguing against modern physics.
 
  • #15
atyy
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So didn't anyone tried to explain the reason for this distribution of outcomes?

Yes. In non-relativistic quantum mechanics, one family of possibilities is Bohmian Mechanics. There are probably other possible reasons for the distribution of outcomes. However, because all these possibilities lead to the same experimental predictions as quantum mechanics, we cannot tell at present whether any of these reasons are correct.

The question of whether there is an explanation for relativistic quantum mechanics is still only partially solved.
 
  • #16
Nugatory
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So didn't anyone tried to explain the reason for this distribution of outcomes?

Yes. You actually are in good company in your reluctance to accept QM the way it is - google for "EPR paper" and you'll find Einstein arguing that there ought to be some deeper theory underlying QM, and that allowed the statistical distributions of outcomes that QM predicts. David Bohm gave it a good try (google for "Bohmian mechanics") but ended up just replacing statistical measurement results with statistical initial conditions. Gerard 't Hooft (google for "superdeterminism") has another approach, but it is even more bizarre and harder to swallow than QM.

Einstein did not live long enough to see John Bell's proof (google for "Bell's Theorem") and the subsequent experimental confirmation that no theory of the sort that you are asking for and the hoped to find could exist.

(Warning: "no such theory could exist" is an oversimplification verging on misstatement, but the subtleties are beside the point here. Everyone who knows what I'm talking about here... please restrain yourself from pointing them out... we don't need another journey down the rabbit hole :) ).
 
  • #17
Ozgen Eren
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But we do know the actual dynamics and it's these dynamics that allow us to derive the uncertainty principle (instead of accepting the "oops - moved it when we bounced a photon off it" misconception that you started the thread with). It's unfortunate that these dynamics don't conform to your sense of what a respectable physical theory should look like, but then again people had similar objections to the Copernican model of the solar system when it first came out.
PhysicsForums is here to help people understand modern physics. We can help you understanding what science says and why it says it, but we are not a platform for arguing against modern physics.

Well its good that we at least can do some stuff by memorizing and generalizing experimental results. I don't know what you understand by the word science but people don't just believe in it. Just because its widely accepted or just because some objected arguments were correct in the past does not mean quantum also is. You might be the one arguing against reality in this case. I am just saying that my question is scientific, I want to understand the clear claim and discuss it scientifically. I am not randomly objecting everything I hear.

I think there is nothing wrong with what I do but if that don't conform your sense of what a respectable physics forum should be a) delete this post along with my account if you have the authorization b) just go off the page.

Yes. In non-relativistic quantum mechanics, one family of possibilities is Bohmian Mechanics. There are probably other possible reasons for the distribution of outcomes. However, because all these possibilities lead to the same experimental predictions as quantum mechanics, we cannot tell at present whether any of these reasons are correct.

The question of whether there is an explanation for relativistic quantum mechanics is still only partially solved.

Thanks that's basically the kind of answer what I am looking for. But on overall, can my arm still appear 1m away on any time according to quantum principles no matter how low the possibility is?

(Warning: "no such theory could exist" is an oversimplification verging on misstatement, but the subtleties are beside the point here. Everyone who knows what I'm talking about here... please restrain yourself from pointing them out... we don't need another journey down the rabbit hole :) ).

Whats wrong with going down the rabbit hole in a physics forum?
 
  • #18
Ken G
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There's nothing wrong with going down the rabbit hole, so long as you understand it is a rabbit hole and not some other kind of hole. In physics, the rabbit hole is the place where you to be able to account for the outcomes of experiments. Once you have successfully accounted for those outcomes, that's the end of the hole. Searching for why the experiments came out the way they did is no different from being able to say what will happen. Anything more is not physics any more, it's a different rabbit hole-- more like metaphysics. But above all, we do not start with metaphysical assumptions, and try to make the physics fit them.
 
  • #19
atyy
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But on overall, can my arm still appear 1m away on any time according to quantum principles no matter how low the possibility is?


Yes.


I want to stress that the main conceptual problem in quantum mechanics is not that it is random. The main problem is something called the measurement problem, and has to do with the difficulty of using the wave function to describe all of reality, even though we do not know of any deviation from quantum mechanics at the moment, even at very large scales.
 
  • #20
Nugatory
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What's wrong with going down the rabbit hole in a physics forum?

Nothing. We already have hundreds if not thousands of posts discussing this particular topic, many of them in very great detail and at a fairly advanced level, and many containing pointers to excellent outside resources. I've suggested a number of google search terms that will bring some of these up, and allow you or anyone else to explore the exact boundaries of the class of theories that are excluded by Bell's theorem and its successors. (While you're at it, "Kochen-Sprecher" would be another good search term).

However, all theories of the sort that would have satisfied Einstein and (judging by the arguments you're making) you fall far inside those boundaries. Thus, the modern subtleties about exactly where the boundaries lie are just going to derail this thread, which is still discussing stuff that was discovered fifty years ago or more
 
  • #21
Ozgen Eren
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There's nothing wrong with going down the rabbit hole, so long as you understand it is a rabbit hole and not some other kind of hole. In physics, the rabbit hole is the place where you to be able to account for the outcomes of experiments. Once you have successfully accounted for those outcomes, that's the end of the hole. Searching for why the experiments came out the way they did is no different from being able to say what will happen. Anything more is not physics any more, it's a different rabbit hole-- more like metaphysics. But above all, we do not start with metaphysical assumptions, and try to make the physics fit them.

So you are only interested in measuring some numbers and finding set of functions that gave similar results. And you want the metaphysics to be strictly separated from those experiments, just some guys doing some philosophy non related to physics or experiments?

In my point of view physics is all about being able to say what will happen, its complete when you can tell the result before an experiment. But if your imagination is satisfied with validating some experimental results with some functions I respect that, and I understand why you want to separate your sense of physics and metaphysics.

Yes.

I want to stress that the main conceptual problem in quantum mechanics is not that it is random. The main problem is something called the measurement problem, and has to do with the difficulty of using the wave function to describe all of reality, even though we do not know of any deviation from quantum mechanics at the moment, even at very large scales.

Thanks a lot I think I got the point. I guess this is the point where saying more would be meaningless without experiments. :)

Nothing. We already have hundreds if not thousands of posts discussing this particular topic, many of them in very great detail and at a fairly advanced level, and many containing pointers to excellent outside resources. I've suggested a number of google search terms that will bring some of these up, and allow you or anyone else to explore the exact boundaries of the class of theories that are excluded by Bell's theorem and its successors. (While you're at it, "Kochen-Sprecher" would be another good search term).

However, all theories of the sort that would have satisfied Einstein and (judging by the arguments you're making) you fall far inside those boundaries. Thus, the modern subtleties about exactly where the boundaries lie are just going to derail this thread, which is still discussing stuff that was discovered fifty years ago or more

Anyway thanks for all the search terms, especially Bell's Theorem seems like answering my arguments, I'll look more into it.
 
  • #22
Nugatory
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In my point of view physics is all about being able to say what will happen, its complete when you can tell the result before an experiment.

That's an excellent statement of what physics is - and by that definition quantum mechanics, uncertainty principle and all, is one of the most successful theories ever.
 
  • #23
DrChinese
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Well its good that we at least can do some stuff by memorizing and generalizing experimental results.

First: the success of QM is due to its ability to a) explain in a theory that which was previously confusing; and b) make thousands of specific predictions, which have been experimentally validated. If you have a better theory that does all this, I am sure everyone will move to that.

Second: if you use QM's tool box, it includes many things - such as the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle - which can seem counter-intuitive when compared to macroscopic reality. That they work (very accurately) is a strong indication that they are meaningful descriptions. Scientists have devised all kinds of experiments to prove QM wrong, and to date (80+ years) no one has. Perhaps you will be the one to do that one day. :-)

Last: asserting a version of reality which is at odds with experiment is a lot more foolish than accepting an odd theory which accurately describes particle behavior. I think as you learn more about quantum physics and its history, it will be clear that QM has always been approached with a skeptical eye. It has never been taken for granted as "true".
 
  • #24
Ken G
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So you are only interested in measuring some numbers and finding set of functions that gave similar results. And you want the metaphysics to be strictly separated from those experiments, just some guys doing some philosophy non related to physics or experiments?
Not quite-- we certainly want to use science to convey to ourselves a sense of understanding. But it's very important to be clear on the things that don't change, and the things that do. If we have an experiment that is well replicated, we do not find that these outcomes change. Hence, if we have a theory that allows us to account for those outcomes, not just that we can predict them quantitatively to some degree of accuracy but also that we have some unifying conceptual principles that convey a sense of understanding, then it will not change that we achieved that level of accuracy for that experiment, and that we conveyed to ourself that sense of understanding. What will likely change, and possibly rather dramatically, is just what that understanding is. Centuries later, it is likely that the same experiment will be understood to a higher level of accuracy using a completely different description, and it will convey a very different "lesson" about reality.

So what this means is, if we wish to avoid framing the art of physics as a self-defeating process that leads inexorably to failure every time a theory is found to break down, we need to see the understanding, and the "lessons", as provisional and contextual, not metaphysical truths. That seems to be what you are objecting to about the way quantum mechanics was framed above, you felt it violated preconceived metaphysical assumptions that you bring forward. But the lesson of science is, above all, we need to be flexible and not inflexible-- we need to let nature tell us how things are, not tell nature how things need to be. The way we do that is, we account for the experiments, because the experiments are how nature talks to us. The only question is, are we listening?
 
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  • #25
Ozgen Eren
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I am sure it works pretty fine experimentally, and I understand the benefit of having it when we don't have any better.

Last: asserting a version of reality which is at odds with experiment is a lot more foolish than accepting an odd theory which accurately describes particle behavior. I think as you learn more about quantum physics and its history, it will be clear that QM has always been approached with a skeptical eye. It has never been taken for granted as "true".

I know classical physics are not even a subject for discussion with the way it currently is. However I never understood the sharp change from classical physics to quantum. At the time Newton invented Classical Physics, he had no idea about photons, electromagnetism or whatnot, so I would expect people to just modify his postulates to enlarge its boundaries. Its relieving to hear there are skeptical people. Although it is enough for numerical solutions, I would be surprised if that's the simplest line between the "dots" we have.

If we have an experiment that is well replicated, we do not find that these outcomes change.

That might also mean there is some independent variable that we are not aware of, and not keeping constant. But on overall I agree with your point, and after all unless someone discover that variable, quantum is pretty useful.

That seems to be what you are objecting to about the way quantum mechanics was framed above, you felt it violated preconceived metaphysical assumptions that you bring forward. But the lesson of science is, above all, we need to be flexible and not inflexible-- we need to let nature tell us how things are, not tell nature how things need to be. The way we do that is, we account for the experiments, because the experiments are how nature talks to us. The only question is, are we listening?

That is sort of true yes, I feel it violates my preconceived metaphysical assumptions. Let me give an analogy about the way I perceive it, it will be lot more easier. I think of experiment results as numbers in a graph. Say we have 1,2 and 3 as experimental result. Then we say most probable function that satisfies it is x=y (like classical physics until it failed). Then we get 1,2,3,7 disproving x=y (7 is like the experiments that disproved classical physics). We can still write infinite functions (theories in this case) to satisfy the experimental data we have. All those infinitely many possible explanations will have different metaphysical assumptions. And I just think quantum physics is like drawing a really weird but valid curve to explain the sequence, instead of trying to fit a smooth polynomial (a theory with our usual perception is a smooth polynomial in this case).
 
  • #26
Ahmad Kishki
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Sir, you must give up your notion of "particle" and "waves", because at the quantum level there is a dual nature of matter, commonly referred to as wave-particle duality. Firsty, we identify a localised "thing" as a particle and an unlocalised "thing" is a wave. Quantum mechanics (through many experiments specially the double slit interference of electrons) tells us that at the micro level the distinction between a wave and a particle becomes hazy. This is called a quantum particle. To understand Heisenberg's uncertainty, we must understand what is this "quantum particle".

The quantum particle is simply a wave packet. This wave packet can be spread all over space to give you an ordinary wave or concentrated at a point to give you a pulse (or the dirac delta distribution). This wave packet is formed by the superposition of many waves of different wavelengths (mathematically speaking). (The waves that undergo superposition is the wave function of the system)

Now, how does this relate to Heisenberg's uncertainty? Suppose you measure the position of a particle with great accuracy, this would mean that the quantum particle becomes a pulse at the position you found the quantum oarticle at. Here, you know the position of this pulse, but you don't know which wavelength was responsible for the particle in the first place since a pulse of infinite height is really the constructive interference of many many mnay waves at a point and destructive interference at all other points. So the uncertainty in wavelength is huge. Let's remember the debroglie wavelength which states that wavelength is inversely proportional to momentum, so in other words the uncertainty in momentum is great.

Suppose you measure the wavelength, you would get a single wave which is completely unlocalised in space, and since you cannot really say a wave is here or there, but rather a wave is everywhere, then you have a huge uncertainty in position, but not momentum since as i said momentum is just inversely proportional to wavelength.

I must pause here and say that this is not related to any aspect of the measuring process, and is simply how matter behaves at the micro level.

Heisenberg's uncertainty simply gives the lower limit of these uncertainties in measurement.

I recommend that you read Concepts of Modern Physics, Arthur Beiser, it is easy going with some math :) good luck :)
 
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  • #27
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I never understood the sharp change from classical physics to quantum. At the time Newton invented Classical Physics

Classical physics doesn't just include Newton's laws. It includes Maxwell's Equations and all of the electromagnetic theory based on them. That theory also made predictions which turned out to be at odds with experiment (for example, the classical EM prediction regarding what should happen to electrons in atoms--see below).

I feel it violates my preconceived metaphysical assumptions.

Those assumptions are violated by experimental results, not just theory. Feynman once said "Quantum physics was not wished upon us by theorists". QM was invented because experiments were telling us things that simply made no sense if classical physics was correct. My favorite example is the stability of atoms: on classical assumptions the electrons should simply fall into the nucleus, emitting EM radiation, and matter should occupy much, much less space than it does.

I just think quantum physics is like drawing a really weird but valid curve to explain the sequence

Then you must have some notion of other less weird curves that could be drawn to explain the same sequence. Do you? If so, please give references. If you don't (and I strongly suspect you don't), then why do you think QM must be weirder than other possible theories that are consistent with the experimental facts? Why couldn't it be that QM is actually the simplest theory we know of that hasn't been ruled out?
 
  • #28
Ozgen Eren
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Then you must have some notion of other less weird curves that could be drawn to explain the same sequence. Do you? If so, please give references. If you don't (and I strongly suspect you don't), then why do you think QM must be weirder than other possible theories that are consistent with the experimental facts? Why couldn't it be that QM is actually the simplest theory we know of that hasn't been ruled out?

Well you would and will know if I have one. Apart from your rhetorical question, I think its weirder than other possible theories because its not deterministic. When you have something probabilistic its enough to have correct result in large quantities which is only practical. But no one can explain what will a single photon exactly do, can they? It may do this or that be here or there. Its unexplained statistical nature is the thing that's bugging me, forcing us to say "thats just the way it is". You are right I don't have an answer but that doesn't mean my question is illogical.
 
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  • #29
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I think its weirder than other possible theories because its not deterministic.

There is a completely deterministic version of QM: it's called de Broglie-Bohm theory. [Edit: I see Nugatory has already mentioned "Bohmian mechanics", which is the same thing.] The price you pay for determinism is non-locality: the wave function that deterministically "guides" a particular particle updates itself instantaneously across the entire universe. If non-locality seems less weird to you than non-determinism, then here you are. (The way de Broglie-Bohm theory accounts for the observed statistical uncertainty in quantum experiments is by saying that we simply can't make accurate enough measurements--if we could, we would see that every particle always has a definite position and momentum, it's just that the laws that govern how these evolve has a non-local term in it due to the wave function, so a photon or electron can "swerve" at any moment because something happened on the other side of the universe, and to us, locally, that looks like a "random" swerve that we can't predict.)

If you would like a deterministic theory that is also local, however, that's not possible: John Bell showed that, and experiments have shown him to be correct. So if non-locality is as weird to you as non-determinism, then there is no possible theory that is less weird than QM with its ordinary non-deterministic interpretation.

And either way, since both theories (ordinary non-deterministic QM and the de Broglie-Bohm deterministic nonlocal variant) are still QM, there is no possible theory that we know of that is less weird than QM. So once again, do you know of one? If so, please give references. If not, why do you think there must somehow be one?
 
  • #30
Nugatory
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Apart from your rhetorical question, I think its weirder than other possible theories because its not deterministic.
There is one known deterministic explanation that has not been falsified by any experiment - superdeterminism, which I mentioned above as one of the topics that you could look at.

Although weirdness is in the eye of the beholder, most people find that superdeterminism is a lot weirder than quantum non-determinism. (Also although it has not been falsified by any experiment, it makes no prediction that QM does not also make, so it has no tangible advantage over QM).
 
  • #31
DrChinese
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... Its unexplained statistical nature is the thing that's bugging me, forcing us to say "thats just the way it is".

That is the central issue with most folks upon becoming familiar with QM. But that would be equally true in a classical universe: that's just the way it is. In classical theory, why does c (speed of light) take on that specific value? That's just the way it is. Why do particles take random values? That's just the way it is.

So no difference really except on the aesthetic side.
 
  • #32
Ozgen Eren
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There is a completely deterministic version of QM: it's called de Broglie-Bohm theory. The price you pay for determinism is non-locality: the wave function that deterministically "guides" a particular particle updates itself instantaneously across the entire universe. If non-locality seems less weird to you than non-determinism, then here you are. (The way de Broglie-Bohm theory accounts for the observed statistical uncertainty in quantum experiments is by saying that we simply can't make accurate enough measurements--if we could, we would see that every particle always has a definite position and momentum, it's just that the laws that govern how these evolve has a non-local term in it due to the wave function, so a photon or electron can "swerve" at any moment because something happened on the other side of the universe, and to us, locally, that looks like a "random" swerve that we can't predict.)

If you would like a deterministic theory that is also local, however, that's not possible: John Bell showed that, and experiments have shown him to be correct. So if non-locality is as weird to you as non-determinism, then there is no possible theory that is less weird than QM with its ordinary non-deterministic interpretation.

There is one known deterministic explanation that has not been falsified by any experiment - superdeterminism, which I mentioned above as one of the topics that you could look at.

Although weirdness is in the eye of the beholder, most people find that superdeterminism is a lot weirder than quantum non-determinism. (Also although it has not been falsified by any experiment, it makes no prediction that QM does not also make, so it has no tangible advantage over QM).

Actually I don't find non-locality weird, since it doesn't break causation. I haven't look into this in just yet but Broglie-Bohm and Bell looks like they will answer most of my questions. Thanks again for all the suggestions for further reading I will definitely make them worth.

And either way, since both theories (ordinary non-deterministic QM and the de Broglie-Bohm deterministic nonlocal variant) are still QM, there is no possible theory that we know of that is less weird than QM. So once again, do you know of one? If so, please give references. If not, why do you think there must somehow be one?

Are you trying to imply I can't question QM if I don't have any better suggestion or did you just misread my last answer. I think there must be a better explanation because all we have is a finite sequence of experimental data. And mathematically you can find infinite number of functions that satisfies any finite sequence. Unless you can't prove QM is the simplest answer you can't blame me for doubting its not the simplest. And just in case if you are still wondering, no I do not have any better answer. But I am humble enough to think that does not mean there isn't any.

That is the central issue with most folks upon becoming familiar with QM. But that would be equally true in a classical universe: that's just the way it is. In classical theory, why does c (speed of light) take on that specific value? That's just the way it is. Why do particles take random values? That's just the way it is.

So no difference really except on the aesthetic side.

I actually meant about the non-deterministic side of it., but I didn't know about the Broglie-Bohm.
 
  • #33
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Ozgen Eren, it appears that you will not be satisfied unless there is a valid deterministic theory, whether it is known to us now or not, that explains what QM explains. I suggest you study the single slit experiment and see if you can think of any way that there could EVER be a deterministic theory that would explain how you can get those results.
 
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  • #34
Ahmad Kishki
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Sir, you must give up your notion of "particle" and "waves", because at the quantum level there is a dual nature of matter, commonly referred to as wave-particle duality. Firsty, we identify a localised "thing" as a particle and an unlocalised "thing" is a wave. Quantum mechanics (through many experiments specially the double slit interference of electrons) tells us that at the micro level the distinction between a wave and a particle becomes hazy. This is called a quantum particle. To understand Heisenberg's uncertainty, we must understand what is this "quantum particle".

The quantum particle is simply a wave packet. This wave packet can be spread all over space to give you an ordinary wave or concentrated at a point to give you a pulse (or the dirac delta distribution). This wave packet is formed by the superposition of many waves of different wavelengths (mathematically speaking). (The waves that undergo superposition is the wave function of the system)

Now, how does this relate to Heisenberg's uncertainty? Suppose you measure the position of a particle with great accuracy, this would mean that the quantum particle becomes a pulse at the position you found the quantum oarticle at. Here, you know the position of this pulse, but you don't know which wavelength was responsible for the particle in the first place since a pulse of infinite height is really the constructive interference of many many mnay waves at a point and destructive interference at all other points. So the uncertainty in wavelength is huge. Let's remember the debroglie wavelength which states that wavelength is inversely proportional to momentum, so in other words the uncertainty in momentum is great.

Suppose you measure the wavelength, you would get a single wave which is completely unlocalised in space, and since you cannot really say a wave is here or there, but rather a wave is everywhere, then you have a huge uncertainty in position, but not momentum since as i said momentum is just inversely proportional to wavelength.

I must pause here and say that this is not related to any aspect of the measuring process, and is simply how matter behaves at the micro level.

Heisenberg's uncertainty simply gives the lower limit of these uncertainties in measurement.
I really don't want to sidetrack this thread with something that will further confuse the OP, but I must point out to you that the concept of "wave particle duality" was dumped some 80+ years ago and is only still around due to some misguided belief that it makes things easier on beginning students. There is no wave particle duality because quantum objects are not waves and they are not particles. Those are classical concepts. Quantum objects are only that ... quantum objects. If you measure particle behavior you will see some particle-like characteristics and if you measure wave behavior you will see some wave characteristics, but that does not make quantum objects particles or waves and does not (as it was thought to do 80 years ago) mean there is a wave particle duality.

I am not sure if your definition of the wave particle duality differs from mine, in any case i said what you said exactly about quantum objects. Regardless, i never came acrosd "wave particle duality" was dumped, so please link me up.
I checked wikipedia quickly only to find:
"Wave–particle duality is the concept that every elementary particle or quantic entity exhibits the properties of not only particles, but also waves. It addresses the inability of the classical concepts "particle" or "wave" to fully describe the behavior of quantum-scale objects. As Einstein wrote: "It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do".[1]
 
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Are you trying to imply I can't question QM if I don't have any better suggestion

No, but you are not just "questioning QM"; you are questioning it specifically on the grounds that it is "weirder" than other "possible theories". So it's perfectly reasonable for me to ask, what are these other "possible theories" and why do you think there must be some that are not as weird as QM? If there aren't any--if it's impossible for any theory that's not at least as weird as QM to explain the experimental facts--then that's the answer to your question.

I think there must be a better explanation because all we have is a finite sequence of experimental data.

But you are not just claiming that there must be multiple possible theories (an infinite number, in fact) that can explain any finite sequence of experimental data. I agree with that. You are making a stronger claim: that of all those possible theories, there must be some that are not as weird as QM. That is the claim I am questioning. My counterclaim is that the weirdness comes from experiments--experiments have shown us that the world just is that weird, so any theory that can explain how the world works must also be that weird.
 

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