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Wave particle duality: accept a new entity?

  1. Nov 5, 2015 #1
    I have always been presented with a description of photons (and electrons more recently) as being entities that at times behave like waves and at times like particles (and I understant that typically particle is a substitude word for small little solid object of mass).

    So I would like to ask the advanced students :
    Would it serve me better to just regard photons and electrons as entities that are not analogous to entities we experience in everyday live, and hence have no proper analogies or nouns, and stop with this "now it's like a wave" / "oh now it's like a sphere of mass" thing ?

    As opposed to:
    Will I always have to keep resorting to these analogies to understand quantum physics, be it in explanations or equations?

    Hope my question is not too ethereal.

    Many thanks for your interest and attention.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 6, 2015 #2
    It sometimes happens that a model of non-intuitive underlying phenomena (in the sense of "what's really going on") can only be conveyed through mathematical expressions. No direct comprehension is possible without that intermediary language. Wave-particle duality may be one of those cases.
  4. Nov 6, 2015 #3


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    You will find many, many threads on PF discussing "wave-particle duality." It is an outdated concept. Things such as electrons are quantum objects, for which this is no complete classical equivalent. They obey a wave equation, and hence have wave-like properties, but they are still particles: electrons are always detected as you would expect for a particle (for instance, at a single location).

    You can browse the threads that appear at the bottow of this page under "Similar discussions" for more detailed descriptions.
  5. Nov 6, 2015 #4


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    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
  6. Nov 6, 2015 #5


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  7. Nov 7, 2015 #6


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    Indeed, and particularly photons are as far from anything in our "daily" experience, if you think in terms of a pointlike particle about it. It doesn't even have a well defined position. A much better picture is to think about it in terms of fields, but also the classical field picture is not entirely reflecting all features of a single-photon state (it's not even describable completely as a quantum mechanical "wave function", which is clear, because there's no well defined position operator...).
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