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Do waves and/or particles exist at all?

  1. Feb 23, 2008 #1
    Do waves and/or particles exist at all???

    This question may come out of some ignorance on my part, but I was reading the Feynman Lectures on Physics and it said that saying that light is both a wave and a particle is synonymous with saying that it is really neither one; BUT my textbook said that particles with mass are also waves, which would seem to imply that "particles" with mass are also neither a wave nor a particle. Which begs the question, Does our conception of a particle exist in nature at all? Likewise, Does our conception of a wave exist in nature at all? Or is everything made out of fundamental quasi-wave quasi-particle stuff that we can't really observe? Although I suppose we can observe this "stuff" in the sense that we can say that part of its nature is that it cannot be observed in a traditional, classical way.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 23, 2008 #2
    yes it exist, its both wave and particle form, no obserrvrer needed.
    solipsism is B U N K
  4. Feb 23, 2008 #3


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    I think the OP has a point. It can be argued that neither particles nor waves really "exist" in the classical sense. When we talk about particles/waves in QM we are really referring to particle-like and wave-like properties of quantum mechanical "objects", this is especially striking in the case of point-particles such as the electron.
    Much of the confusion around QM stems from the fact that people want to hold on to familiar concepts such as particles and waves when they interpret the formalism. In many ways it would perhaps be better to stop using these altogether.

    However, it is important to realise that this problem only comes up in the interpretation of QM, the formalism (i.e. the math) is very clear and can predict the outcome of experiments with very high accuracy (as far as we know QM is exact) which ultimately is the only thing that matters in physics.
  5. Feb 23, 2008 #4
    well, i guess bohmian interpretatio n is the right one:P
  6. Feb 24, 2008 #5
    Funny someone should mention the Matrix. Leaving aside the criticisms of the 2nd and 3rd movies, by the end of the story it was quite clear that there *was* a *real* world which could not be so easily manipulated by the mind.

    The larger point, though, is that if we *were* living in a simulation, there'd be no way to know it. Strict Copenhagenism (at least some forms of it) suggest that nothing "exists" unless it is observed, implying that there are only "interactions" and nothing in between. By this definition, a computer simulation would indeed be indistinuishable from "reality."
  7. Feb 24, 2008 #6


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    You might want to start with reading the FAQ first in the General Physics forum, and then see if you want to explore more beyond that. It is always nice to first established exactly what we are dealing with, what we do know, and then work from there. As f95toli has mentioned, a lot of such "confusion" may arise out of what we define as classical "wave" and classical "particle", and that such concepts may not be the same thing that is being used in QM, even though it uses the same words.

  8. Feb 24, 2008 #7


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    Ouch. I don't get it that so many people don't get it. From the restrictions of our language, and, possibly, our neural structure, something that is both wave and particle cannot be -- except in our imagination.

    Consider the electron microscope, in which the images are created by electrons, which are detected as particles. So where's the wave that's responsible for the diffraction that is the "image"? It's the dynamical behavior of the electrons; the wave function of the electron-microscope electrons shows the diffraction patterns, which determines the probability that an electron will be detected at such-and-such a place. The wave function tells us where the particle is likely to be.

    No, QM does not have anything to do with a mythical creature or thing that is both a particle and a wave.

    Reilly Atkinson
  9. Feb 25, 2008 #8
    Sorry for the confusion. I was taking about classical particles.

    My question was not whether or not what we call particles exists (eg electrons, quarks, gluons etc.), but rather whether or not what we are forced to think of when we say the word "particle" exists. This is also why I was concerned about my question arising perhaps partly from my naïveté because I'm only about half way through my first real quantum class; but no matter how much I use the Schrodinger Equation or think of electrons, I always have to think of them in terms of particles and waves.

    In the end, though, what I was driving at was that since leptons, quarks, gauge bosons, are all considered elementary "particles", then everything in the universe is made up of a combination of these "particles". And since these "particles" are neither waves nor particles (in the classical sense), I was wondering if particles were merely fiction. Since no matter what kind of particle one is speaking of when one says the word "particle" the classical description always comes to mind.

    I suppose an implicit question is, "Am I naive for thinking about QM like this?"
  10. Feb 26, 2008 #9


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    a quark is a quark :-)
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