# Understanding Waves, Particles and Probabilities

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• geordief
In summary, vanahees71 explained to me that the wave-particle duality can be explained by the model where the position of a particle is calculated according to a probability distribution travelling in space. The particle part is when an interaction actually takes place.
geordief
TL;DR Summary
Am I getting close to a basic understanding of probability waves?
In the ongoing quantum interpretations and foundations thread vanahees71 explained to me that the wave particle duality has been explained by the model where the position of a particle is calculated according to a probability distribution traveling in space.

Am I understanding this correctly.The probability distribution has the same shape as a wave and that accounts for the wave part of the wave-particle duality?

And the particle part is when an interaction actually takes place?

Or am I nowhere near understanding this still?

geordief said:
Am I understanding this correctly.The probability distribution has the same shape as a wave and that accounts for the wave part of the wave-particle duality?
Roughly, yes.
geordief said:
And the particle part is when an interaction actually takes place?
The wave looks like a particle when the width of wave is small. Interaction can be a part of the reason why this happens, but it's not that simple.

topsquark and geordief
geordief said:
Summary: Am I getting close to a basic understanding of probability waves?

In the ongoing quantum interpretations and foundations thread vanahees71 explained to me that the wave particle duality has been explained by the model where the position of a particle is calculated according to a probability distribution traveling in space.

Am I understanding this correctly.The probability distribution has the same shape as a wave and that accounts for the wave part of the wave-particle duality?

And the particle part is when an interaction actually takes place?

Or am I nowhere near understanding this still?
Classical physics involves two seemingly different physical things: particles and waves. It was assumed that some things were particles (e.g. electrons) and some things were waves (e.g light).

Then certain experiments were carried out that appeared to show light behaving like a particle (photoelectric effect) and electrons behaving like waves (electron diffraction). This was called wave-particle duality.

QM explains wave-particle duality by modelling an electron using a wavefunction. This single model explained both its particle-like and wave-like behaviour.

QM itself doesn't have wave-particle duality as part of the theory. And, indeed, some popular QM textbooks (e.g. Griffiths and Sakurai) either mention it only as a historical footnote or not at all.

topsquark and geordief

## 1. What is the wave-particle duality?

The wave-particle duality is a fundamental concept in quantum mechanics that describes how particles can exhibit both wave-like and particle-like behavior. This means that they can have properties of both waves, such as interference and diffraction, and particles, such as mass and momentum.

## 2. How do waves and particles differ?

Waves are a form of energy that propagate through space, while particles are tiny units of matter that have mass and occupy a specific location in space. Waves can travel through a vacuum, while particles cannot. Additionally, waves can have varying frequencies and wavelengths, while particles have a fixed mass and size.

## 3. What is the role of probabilities in quantum mechanics?

In quantum mechanics, probabilities are used to describe the behavior and interactions of particles. This is because at the quantum level, the behavior of particles is inherently uncertain and can only be described in terms of probabilities. The wave function of a particle gives the probability of finding the particle in a particular location or state.

## 4. How do we observe the wave-like and particle-like behavior of particles?

The behavior of particles can be observed through various experiments, such as the double-slit experiment, which demonstrates the wave-like nature of particles through interference patterns. The particle-like behavior of particles can be observed through experiments that measure their position and momentum, such as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.

## 5. What is the significance of understanding waves, particles, and probabilities?

Understanding waves, particles, and probabilities is crucial in many fields, including physics, chemistry, and engineering. It allows us to accurately describe and predict the behavior of particles at the quantum level, which has implications for technology, medicine, and our understanding of the universe.

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