A Conversation for Wave-Particle Duality

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 1

Dad n Dave

My interest in quantum physics started in 1988 with an article in the “Economist” magazine about Schrodinger’s cat. Until then, I had been under the mistaken impression that the scientists had answered all the interesting questions and I had a very clear “Walt Disney” view of atoms.

However, hardly a day goes past now in which I do not find myself contemplating the mysteries of life, the universe and everything. Coincidentally, I have just turned 42 and happened to come to this website because I read about it in the “Economist”. I wonder how that would score on the improbability drive?

One issue about which I often think is the true nature of matter and in particular the apparent dual particle/wave nature of energy and matter. When considering this, for a long time I struggled with a mindset of a water wave and envisioned hard little lumps of matter moving along over distance, tracing out the undulations of a wave. However, I subsequently came to view a wave as a transmission mechanism for energy and things became a little clearer. Fundamentally, both particles and waves might represent a mechanism by which energy is transmitted.

Perhaps the dual particle and wave nature of matter represents alternative perceptions of a different underlying reality or energy field. If we run an experiment on this energy field to detect wave-like characteristics, then, by this act, we evoke wave-like characteristics. If we run an experiment to detect particle-like characteristics, then we evoke particle-like characteristics.

We are conscious of solid matter such as a table. However, this may in part be a function of our own perception. After all, to a neutrino such matter would be virtually undetectable and the table may not exist from such a perspective.

The double slit experiment intrigues me. What evidence is there that the electron or photon that is fired out of a “gun” is the very same particle that hits a screen? Given the uncertainty principle, it seems to me that we might never be absolutely sure of the position of any particle that we have shot, thereby giving it a distinct momentum, from a gun. Instead of some “choice” being made by the particle as suggested in Paul Davies and John Gribbin’s “the matter myth” and in various other books, I believe that there is a more logical explanation.

My guess is that the gun supplies energy to some type of field. This energy is then transmitted through the field (in a wave-like manner) until it meets a barrier. The barrier, by design, causes the field to give up its energy in a particle like outcome. The particle as such does not actually pass through either slit but rather the energy is transmitted through whatever openings are available.

The particle that appears on the screen is not the same particle that is fired from the gun, in the same way that the first water particle to be moved by a gust of wind is not the same particle that crashes on the shore or moves up and down the pontoon. In terms of compression waves, the air molecule that is first disturbed by a sound is not the particle that crashes into your eardrum.

Consideration of my explanation above also brings me to the way in which evidence of sub-atomic particles is established. Energy is fired into a nucleus, “something” happens to it and the output is interpreted as particle-like behaviour. It seems a little like shining a light on a subject and observing its shadow. You can get information about the object but not the precise detail without viewing it with an additional dimension.

Another intriguing question relates to the way in which bigger and bigger particle accelerators enable the generation of greater and greater energy and the discovery of evidence of smaller and smaller sub-atomic particles. It seems that if someone is able to dream up an experiment to test the existence of a particle and throws enough energy into the experiment, then the particle will be revealed. If we were in the fortunate position of being able to generate a literally infinite amount of energy, would we find evidence of infinitesimal particles? Both the existence of irrational numbers to express fundamental relationships in nature and fractal relationships hint at infinite divisibility.

Taken to a conclusion, if there is an infinitesimal particle is matter continuous? Do we become connected, in way, with every person and place we contact? This may be an explanation for the apparent effects of homeopathy and other phenomena. Could it be that some sort of “cosmic interconnectedness” is what the sages perceive as God?

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 2

Future World Dictator (13)

Hmm. Interesting stuff...

This field, presumably it transmits energy at the same speed that what we would call the electron would have moved at (you could check that by moving the screen closer to the gun and basically just timing it). So you might as well just call it an electron, because whenever you look at it (ie put a screen in the way of it), it collapses into a 'classical' electron as JJ Thompson would have understood it.

That is wave-particle duality exactly. When you're not looking at it it behaves like a wave, smeared out over some volume of space, but as soon as you look at it, you force it to do something definite (eg hit this atom but not that one) and at that point it appears to have been a particle all along. It's weird philosophical stuff that I don't pretend to understand.

What do you mean by the existence of irrational numbers to represent fundamental relationships in nature? The only one I can think of is pi, and as a mathematics student my understanding of irrational numbers, like any other numbers, is as abstract constructions of the human mind. Pi, for example, may look like it comes from nature, but if you made a circle in the real world, no matter how accurately you did it, the ratio of circumference to diameter would not be pi, because space is curved.

Of course to make such a circle you would need continuous matter. I'm guessing now, but if you had a particle that required an arbitrarily large amount of energy to separate from its neighbours (so you could see it), then you would have to concentrate that energy in a volume smaller than, say, a teacup. Once the amount of energy got large enough you would create a black hole (since E=mc^2) thus scuppering your experiment. So these things are by definition unobservable and therefore not worth worrying about.

And anyway, since particle accelerators cost so much money they probably only look for things they're virtually certain to find (and if they didn't find anything it wouldn't get widely reported).

How does continuous matter correspond to cosmic interconnectedness? And how does the Universe know that what you just interacted with was a person?

Phew, just spent an hour thinking about that when I should have been working. Oh well...

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 3

Dad n Dave

I claim to understand nothing, except for the fact that I have now been able to properly insert some "quotation marks" into a post. However, I have given this issue of the nature of matter a bit of thought over the years.

The multiple worlds view of the double slit experiment just does not make sense to me and the idea of a "particle" going through two slits at once means that my previous perception of a particle must be flawed. This led me to think of energy as the underlying fundamental - maybe e=mc^2 reflects a greater fundamental concept than just the ability to convert one to the other.

I agree that for practical purposes, then if something looks and smells and feels like a particle, then it may as well be one. But if matter is in fact continuous, does this mean that when I shake hands with you or even just get close to you that we to some extent become connected.

Furthermore, maybe gravity itself is some measure of the degree to which two bodies are interconnected - a measure of the extent to which they share their continuous energy field or matter. Certainly, the m1xm2/d^2 hints at something like this, even if it needs to be measured from the perspective of a different dimension.

We seem to have no difficilty thinking of space as a continuum and time as a continuum, why not matter?

As far as the irrational numbers and more particularly fractals are concerned, I guess that it's mainly the idea of an indefinable or possibly infinite perimeter enclosed within a finite area that mostly piqued my interest. Matter could have fractal tendrils that express its continuous nature.

On the issue of irrationals, even if numbers are a construct of human minds, we have to deal with i, e, root(2) and other irrationals that appear in calculations from time to time.

I'll give it some more thought.

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 4

Dad n Dave

In an article about slowing down and stopping light, I noticed that the July 2001 copy of Scientific American mentioned that there is such a thing as a 1/400 of a photon. Perhaps the idea of continuous matter is not far from the mark.

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 5


smiley - footprints

my brain hurts. I think it *might* matter. Its probably to do with the fundamental interconnectedness of all things.


smiley - erm


Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 6

Dad n Dave

Sorry to hurt your brain. I didn't mean to. And I am yet to learn how to put those little smilies in a message to ease the pain. Maybe we will need to discuss this over a cup of brownian motion generator at the utopia cafebar. In the meantime you might also like my suggestion for a new system of government, which seems to fit in with the ideals of the cafebar.

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 7

Solomon the Wisest

Interesting angle you're looking at the problem. Unfortunately, I'm not able to offer you any counter arguments at the moment. However, I can think of plenty of new questions your argument throws up.
Does matter really exist and does it really matter?, could be reformulated as: Does matter >need< to exist to really matter? Or your question could be rearranged: Does it really <-->matter/ \matter exists?] Or it could be slightly amputated as: Matter really exists;really!?;does it matter?
Now this seems like asking the same question in different ways but coming to the same conclusion? Personally, I doubt that very much. Why? Because the fine different subtlteties betrween them, will probably lead you into a different direction each in its own turn.
And don't forget, everyone who will look at these new questions will interpret them in a different way.

A few final questions regarding wave-particle duality. Who says that there is a [wave-particle duality]? Why is it a wave? How is it a wave? When is it a wave?]+[ When is not a wave?/ Where is it a wave?
What kind of wave? The same questions can be applied to the particle. Now to the assumption of duality. What if there is some additional triangularity we havn't even become aware of? You can let your imagination run wild on this question. The probabilities are fantasticnomical!!!
Sorry, if I throw your parallel-linear logical thinking somewhat into confusion -)); but we're stepping into a competely new arena as far as our core world-view(s) is.are_concerned.
#God moves in mysterious ways#
Solomon the Wisest

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 8

Dad n Dave

And what is a wave, anyway? For that matter, what is a particle at an underlying, elementary level? I think that they may "simply" be manifestations of an energy field. As you say, the imagination can run wild.

Reality appears to be the mystery of the fantasticnomical (love the word) probabilities.

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 9


Have you looked at this from a theological angle?

According to proponents of Christian Dualism (as I understand it) matter does exist but is completely irrelevant smiley - erm

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 10

Dad n Dave

There is no shortage of speculation on theological issues both in an outsde of h2g2.

In respect to this particular thread, and that in the sister thread "cooking with quanta", if energy represents the underlying reality, then that energy field could very well be seen as having some of the characteristics that are ascribed to God. If matter is a continuous or fractal manifestation of that underlying energy, then interconnectedness is inherent and consciousness of an individual, although still very much a mystery, would be part of an overall consciousness.

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 11

Solomon the Wisest

Your Wisdom is incredible. How on Earth did You come to acqiure such beautiful Deep Insight ?!? ~ ~ ~ ~

Solomon The Wisest ;, Servant of the Love Jesus Christ through God ---- God loves yYou Dad'n

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 12

Dad n Dave

Solly - Deep insight? Is that a hint of irony, perhaps even a touch of sarcasm, that I detect?

Perhaps it is deep insight but it might also be plainly wrong. I can only guess at the things that I don't know and then there are things that I don't even know that I don't know!

The double slit experiment challenges my previous idea of a particle so radically that I believe that there has to be a better explanation than the "many worlds" interpretation or other alternatives. Energy as the underlying entity that is being transmitted makes so much more sense to me. To me, it just seems to be the simplest explanation for the facts that are presented.

And if there is dark matter in the universe, or something else (inside or outside of our 4 dimensional time/space) that we are as yet unable to detect, is this the transmission medium for electromagnetic energy (if, indeed, one is needed)?

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 13


Hey, D&D.

I like to look at it like this. The whole matter thing is a matter of evolutionary shortcomings of the human animal's survival needs. "Matter", I suspect, is our way of differentiating the more typical arrangements of standing wave phenomenon from the few which will poke a nasty hole in us if we didn't have a way to know what they 'looked' like.

My more "de-speciated" objectivity says that matter is more of a spacially dependant standing waveform (even if it's frame of reference may be in relative motion to whatever detects it) and energy is a more spacially independent propogating wave form.

That the whole particle thing goes on forever ad infintitum, I have no doubt, as does the macro thing with the big bang being but a local phenomenon.

Like your read a lot. -Cuetek

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 14

Dad n Dave

I think that we might be on the same, dare I say it, "wavelength" when you are talking about standing waveforms. At its heart, matter is interchangeable with energy through e=mc^2. It still seems to me that it then gets back to what is, exactly, a wave. A wave does appear to be a trasmission mechanism for energy and your distinction between realtively spatially restricted "matter" and less restricted "energy" might be useful.

Why doubt ?

Post 15

Solomon the Wisest

Dad'n Dave, I believe, you obviously got the wrong end of the stick.
I meant what I said - without sarcasm or irony !

Solomon the Wisest

P.S. I have already been able to create/discover multiplex 6d+ Fractals with my Fractal Generators. You can draw your own conclusions from that.

multiplex = multicomplex

Why doubt ?

Post 16

Dad n Dave

I didn't take any offence. As I said, maybe it is deep insight. I have been thinking about the issues for a very long time now and I certainly hope that there is some insight there.

6d+ fractals - sounds fantastic. I'd like to be able to visualise that. If you get a 6.7, maybe it will result in the answer 42!

Does matter exist and does it really matter?

Post 17

Solomon the Wisest

Perhaps if matter didn't exists it would matter. The problem would then be, what it would be like if matter didn't exist? Would it be the total absence of sensory experience but still being able to think. Or what kind of non-sensory experience would it be? Anyway, isn't matter supposed to be indestructible according to one of the laws of the universe. In which case, why am I asking myself 'does matter really exist and does it really matter'? Perhaps because I think/know not everything is as it seems. But that again is completely irrelevant because [- is -]seems a different [-is-}ad.infinitum. Therefore it seems-is exists. Perhaps matter is nothing more but a magician that appears and disappears-reappears at my/its random order.
Enough of that. I think I need to talk to my shrink again -):

Solomon the Wisest

Does matter exist and does it really matter?

Post 18

Dad n Dave

Matter is not indestructible, as amply demonstrated by nuclear reactions. It can also be created, with the input of enough energy.

What we perceive as lumps of matter might be also seen to be a matrix of interconnected energy packets - held together as a type of standing wave. The difference between living and dead matter would be the ongoing energy input and the processing of that energy required to keep the standing wave intact - and able to withstand decay from other biological or environmental agents.

The interconnected energy packets might well have a consciousness and sensory experience - after all, it's still something of a mystery to try to explain consciousness even when we are trying to see how it arises in matter. There is no doubt that some energy repels and some attracts - is this a type of sensory experience?

The ability of nuclear pyhsicists to detect smaller and smaller "particles" not by dirct obseration but by the energetic effects that they demonstrate in cloud chambers suggests to me that energy is the underlying fundamental "stuff" of the universe.

Does matter exist and does it really matter?

Post 19

Dad n Dave

Interesting to notice just recently that the mass of subatomic particles is measured in electron volts. Mass is energy?

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 20


The wave/particle duality conundrum is explained as follows;

Photons are released from atoms when electrons fall from one an (allowed) higher enery level to an (allowed) lower energy level.

These photons are energy packets that travel through the electromagnetic field in waves. When reaching (or hitting) something that has mass (matter) these electromagnetic field waves interact with matter as though it is a particle.

If the energy wave passes through a slit (i.e. no matter interaction takes place) then it continues unhindered in its travels in its original wave form. On passing through two narrow, nearby slits, the wave will pass through both slits and on the other side, depending upon its wavelength, then "interfere" with itself (as it spreads out behind the card that has the slits cut in it) and create an interference pattern on a suitably placed card on the other side of the slits.

Therefore there is nothing unambiguous, no dichotomy and certainly no "x-files" mystery!!!

smiley - smiley

Key: Complain about this post