Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Corralling Electrons

  1. Apr 1, 2013 #1
    I apologize if I am missing a major point, but I thought it was worth a try.

    If electrons are governed by wave-particle duality, do the waves permeate all of space? Does this mean that electrons we force into a particle, come from the same wave or do they have individual waves? And if so, how do you differentiate from any single infinitely large wave? Is it completely outside the realm of possibility that an electron, when probed, and therefore forced into its particle state, is akin to (bear with me on this) icicles formed on a leaky gutter.

    In this analogy, the water inside the gutter would be the electron wave and the icicle the electron particle. When the electron wave is forced to "make a decision" it forms a point, much as a water filled gutter forces excess water to overflow and forms icicles (ignoring that gravity directs the formation of an icicle). Icicles, which form in certain spots along this hypothetical leaky gutter, act like a collapsing probability wave, which dictates the probabilities of where an electron should be. Where larger icicles form, the higher the probability of an electron being found at that location.

    To wrap up, the water in the gutter and forming the icicles is all one entity, so is it possible that all particle electrons are just "icicle formations" from the same wave?

    Thank you very much for your time and again, I apologize for my pedestrian understanding. I find physics to be immensely fascinating and I am trying to gain a larger grasp, in anyway possible.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 1, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    One should be careful with analogies when it comes to quantum particles. Any reasonable/classical analogy may work for a few cases, but it will never work for all.

    You can think of the wave version of a free electron as encompassing a large volume. And you can think of an electron corralled into a small area as being a particle. Usually, however, these scenarios are considered examples of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. Waves being associated with momentum states, particles being associated with position states.

    So an analogy is fine as long as you remember not to take it too seriously.
  4. Apr 1, 2013 #3
    Thank you DrChinese. I have become accustomed in realizing that understanding quantum particles and their interactions/momentum states are not easily imagined or analogous to classical analogy. In our current understanding, does large volume mean infinite? Or are there limits?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook