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Thought double-slit experiment

  1. Aug 17, 2015 #1
    In Young’s double slit experiment, if we use a single electron, then the electron-wave would divide itself into two wavelets due to two narrow slits. Similarly would the electron-matter divide itself in that experiment? If it would not, then through one slit, both the electron-wave and electron-matter would go and through one slit only electron-wave would go. But we would not see any assymmetry in interference pattern, why?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 18, 2015 #2


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    The electron wave determines the probabilities of the outcomes of a measurement if one were made.
    At any stage of the double slit experiment, wherever you place detectors, you will detect either one whole electron or nothing.
    The probability waves will tell you what sort of interference pattern you'll see if you put enough electrons through the experiment.

    The electron matter does not divide itself in the experiment.
  4. Aug 18, 2015 #3

    Then what is actually divided? ( I am new to this topic)
  5. Aug 18, 2015 #4


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    Nothing, as far as the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics is concerned. Quantum mechanics accurately predicts the probability of the electron landing at various points on the screen based on the number of possible paths and the initial state of the electron, but it says nothing about what's going on between source and screen. Furthermore, in QM the word "particle" means something very different than the informal English meaning of the word, so you cannot trust your classical ideas about particle behavior - for example, you cannot assume that, if the particle started at point A and was later found at point B, it moved through the space between them.

    You may reasonably choose to believe that something had to physically divide and reunite somewhere, but there is no scientific agreement about whether that is indeed the case, nor what that something might be, and no known experiment that could answer either question.
  6. Aug 18, 2015 #5
    Hard thing to take. Is this "something" the electron-wave? (Like the OP mentioned)
    If this is so, then what is actually electron-wave? Intuitively I thought that, it is the wave property of electron talked about.
  7. Aug 18, 2015 #6


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    Maybe, maybe not.

    Original poster En Joy's comment about an electron-wave "dividing itself into two wavelets" is not quantum mechanics, it's an easily visualized mental picture that may or may not be what's really going on here. Maybe there is a "probability wave" that is as real as the waves on the ocean I'm looking at right now (although this would be a lot more satisfying if we could say what was waving) and that divides into two; but there's nothing in QM that says that has to be what's going on.
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