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B Properties of an electron

  1. Jul 4, 2016 #1
    An electron displays both wave and particle like properties.

    Does it exhibit these at the same time or at different times?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 4, 2016 #2

    BvU

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    At the same time: all the time
     
  4. Jul 4, 2016 #3

    vanhees71

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    An electron is neither a classical particle nor a classical field but described entirely right only by modern quantum theory, which implies that there is no such thing as "wave-particle duality" as in old quantum theory (which was obsolete with the discovery of modern quantum theory in 1925/26).
     
  5. Jul 4, 2016 #4
    Then what is it? Just probability!
     
  6. Jul 4, 2016 #5

    Nugatory

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    It is neither a wave nor a particle. It is a quantum object.
     
  7. Jul 4, 2016 #6

    Delta²

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    Oh come on Vanhees and Nugatory please tell us something more about what the modern quantum field theory says about electron!!!
     
  8. Jul 4, 2016 #7

    jtbell

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    If you could ask an electron what it is, I bet it would answer like Popeye the Sailor:

    IAmWhatIAm.jpg
     
  9. Jul 4, 2016 #8

    BvU

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    The heavies (i.e. the theoretical physicists like vanH and Nu) are absolutely right. But for many down-to-earth 'practical' physics, treating the buggers as particles or treating them as waves can be quite adequate. If you are describing something that forces you to switch between these interpretations you are probably in trouble. The electrons themselves certainly don't change their behaviour because you use the one or the other paradigm to describe their behaviour.
     
  10. Jul 4, 2016 #9

    ZapperZ

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    I'll add to the fun. In my field, we treat them like classical particles. And it works!

    Look at particle-simulation codes such as PARMELA, and other PIC codes. They all threat electrons as classical particles to model the electron beam going through various components in a particle accelerator.

    Your question is ambiguous because you did not put ANY context to it. If you ask someone if Special Relativity is valid in building a house, you'll get laughed at. There are cases where it is easier to treat something in some formulation, while in others, it may be more accurate to treat it in another formulation.

    I also strongly suggest you read some of the FAQs, especially on the similar question regarding photons, and whether they are waves or particles. The answer is applicable to this one. Notice the fact that even calling it a "wave" or a "particle" is incorrect or inaccurate at best. YOU have already a classical imprint in your head of what a "particle" is and what a "wave" is. Yet, these are not accurate description of quantum particles, simply because they are not physical waves (meaning they are not really "waves") and they really do not have well-defined boundary in space like a ping-pong ball (meaning they are not really "particles").

    So even the insistence that they can be one or the other, or combination of both is not accurate either!

    Zz.
     
  11. Jul 4, 2016 #10

    Nugatory

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    For electrons (and other massive particles, as opposed to photons) you don't need QFT. Ordinary "first-quantization" non-relativistic QM, the stuff you'll learn in a college-level intro to QM, is a good enough starting point.

    Some interactions with an electron demonstrate interference and diffraction, which we generally consider to be wave-like behavior; other interactions are consistent with the electron being at a particular place at a particular time, which we generally consider to be particle-like behavior. As ZapperZ has pointed out, in many problems you can just choose one or the other model and stick with it and get altogether satisfactory results.
     
  12. Jul 4, 2016 #11

    DrChinese

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    Instantaneously, of course. :biggrin:
     
  13. Jul 4, 2016 #12
    This word 'instantaneous' has confused many a generation, imo.
     
  14. Jul 5, 2016 #13

    ftr

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    I always thought the standard answer is that depending on the experiment you can interpret the electron as particle and in others as wave.

    Although there is the controversial experiment by Afshar which interprets as both at the same time
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afshar_experiment
     
  15. Jul 6, 2016 #14

    vanhees71

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    An electron and its antiparticle, the positron, are described as a Dirac fermion with the mass of ~511 keV. It carries electric and weak-isospin charge but no color. That describes completely what we know about the electron within the Standard Model of elementary particles.
     
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