The Myth of Wave / Particle Duality

This posting describes some of the History, which many people may be bypassing, in their appreciation of Quantum Mechanics.

About until the 1920s, ‘light’ was largely thought to consist of waves. But a problem with that was, how to explain, why light can travel through apparently empty space. After all, the light that reaches us from distant stars is not fundamentally different, from light that originates on Planet Earth. And until the 1920s, it was believed that there exists a mysterious “Aether“, which transmitted light through space.

A basic premise of wave-propagation, such as in the case of sound-waves, is that there must first be some sort of medium, to conduct the waves, which in the case of sound may be air. But the need for the existence of a medium, also explains why there is no sound in space.

But during the 1920s, the existence of an aether was disproved. Decisively. And so another explanation was needed, of what constitutes light. And the thought seemed more logical, that particles can easily travel through empty space – hence, photons. Even though this was not actually the first form in which photons were theorized.

But then obviously, this raises questions, about how these particles are supposed to relate to waves, where waves were at first easier to observe.

I think that the way many people today are presented, what Quantum-Mechanics consists of, is just, “Wave / Particle Duality”. But then what many students believe – and what I once believed myself – is, that Quantum Mechanics holds some sort of secret key, as to how Matter and Energy might simultaneously consist of particles and waves. And in reality, QM holds no such decisive, secret answers. The only real secret which QM may hold, is a detail that could be embarrassing to the present way in which QM works.

Continue reading The Myth of Wave / Particle Duality

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A Problem with How Light is Presently Conceptualized

The fact that the macroscopic phenomenon of light, can be stated as a set of wave-functions, whose polarization can be stated as vector-sums, in which either component can additionally be phase-shifted with respect to the other, is also the direct statement today, of what the possible states of a photon are, entirely justified by the concept of superposition of states.

The problem with this approach is, that it’s possible for the macroscopic inspection of a phenomenon to reveal properties, which individual particles – i.e. photons – do not have.

What the real set of properties, of one photon, are, remains to be discovered at some future point in time.

Dirk

 

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What the Scientific Method Consists Of

When I was taking Science courses, even just in High-School, one of the subjects which we were taught very early, was what the Scientific Method consists of.

Now, our version then might have been dumbed-down a little bit, or, since then, the exact definition may have been refined. But this is essentially what we were taught, the method consists of:

  • A party observes a Phenomenon, which deserves explanation. This could be a newly-discovered phenomenon, as easily as it could be a commonly-known phenomenon, which is thought to deserve a better explanation than the commonly-accepted explanation.
  • The party formulates a Hypothesis, to explain this phenomenon.
  • The party suggests and / or devises an Experiment, which will either confirm or disprove that hypothesis.
  • The party carries out that experiment and records the Results.
  • If the results confirm the hypothesis, the party next Shares these results with the Community.
  • Someplace else in the Scientific Community, another party attempts to carry out either the same experiment, or an equivalent experiment, the purpose of which are, to try to Reproduce the results obtained by the first party.
  • If the other parties are able to confirm the results, the hypothesis is Promoted to having the status of a Theory.

In Science, a theory is about as good as a set of facts, only, a theory is a set of rules, which can predict the outcome of events under given conditions, and with which Scientists can attempt to explain other phenomena.

Dirk

 

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