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B Why doesn't light destroy matter

  1. Aug 5, 2016 #1
    I'm exploring quantum mechanics for fun and am in no way an expert.
    I have a problem with understanding something:
    If an atom would collapse if the electron acted like a particle and can only exist if the electron behaves as a wave (in a superposition) and if measuring an electron forces it to become a particle (chose a location), wouldn't photons of (visible) light hitting the electron turn it into a particle and thus destroy the atom?
    How, then, does matter "survive"being illuminated?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2016 #2
    The measurement doesn't force a choice, but might help an observer determine the location. I would question first how would the absorption of a photon would determine the location of the electron? Secondly, most photons are not absorbed.
  4. Aug 5, 2016 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    The entire notion that the electron switches between being a wave and a particle, and that it is a wave that collapses into a particle when measured, is wrong. It's one of those things that was considered early last century when physicists were first trying to make sense of the quantum effects that they were observing. By 1935 or thereabouts this idea had been largely abandoned, but by then it had made it into the popular imagination, where it will probably live forever.

    If you don't want to grind your way through a modern first year textbook (which will require a fair amount of college-level math as a prerequisite) you could try Giancarlo Ghirardi's "Sneaking a look at God's cards" for a decent introduction to the modern understanding QM.
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2016
  5. Aug 6, 2016 #4
    The electron and photon are wave always. This is the way to describe only.
  6. Aug 6, 2016 #5


    Staff: Mentor

    You keep saying this.

    A number of people, including me, have pointed out it's WRONG.

    If you keep promulgating falsehoods the moderators, correctly, will censure you.

    There are many good books explaining the modern view of QM. Simply post your math background and many including me will be only too happy to make recommendations.

    BTW this is basic textbook stuff - there is nothing controversial about it. When Dirac came up with his transformation theory in 1926 such ideas were overthrown - likely before, but certainly by then:

  7. Aug 6, 2016 #6
    Thanks to all who replied.
    I'll look into the stuff you recommended.
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