Particles / Waves

1. Jul 8, 2012

and7barton

My question concerns Particle / Wave duality.
Being a musician, I find it easier to visualise these things in their Wave aspect.
I visualise these waves as on a frequency spectrum, and I think a good analogy is to picture them as harmonics blown on some cosmic "Trumpet". It requires more energy to blow the next harmonic up in the scale......... I also have the feeling that there is no ultimate upper limit to the spectrum of harmonics. Each subsequent harmonic in the rising scale requires more and more energy to energise it. The particles are visualised as getting smaller and smaller, but their wave aspect gets higher and higher in frequency.
Am I on the right track here, visualising it in this way ?
My question is - if these energies can be construed as being both a particle and a wave, then how are the different spins of particles and other individual characteristics of any specific particle, reflected in their wave aspect ?

2. Jul 8, 2012

Simon Bridge

No. You are still thinking in terms of classical waves - it's a start because it gives you a chunk of the math and helps you understand a lot of the odd stuff. But it will lead you astray too. Treat it as a metaphor.

Spins, for instance, are just additional angular momentum added to the overall wave ... your classical picture would add them as additional wobbles in the wave-form. But like I said, this is a misleading picture. The characteristics associated with classical particles cannot be represented in the wave aspect - that's why there is a duality.

In the end these objects are not particles and they are not waves. They are a different class of objects with their own mathematics.

But to give you an idea - it makes as much sense to say something has wave-particle duality as it does to say an elephant has trunk-tail duality. It is true that an elephant, viewed one way may have the properties of a tail, and, viewed another way, may have the properties of a trunk - but that is to miss out a whole lot of elephant.

Also see:
http://vega.org.uk/video/subseries/8/ [Broken]
... Feynman's classic lecture series deals with quantum electrodynamics and covers the concepts you are wrestling with in context.

Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017