A Conversation for Wave-Particle Duality

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 21


I've always had this inability to accept the "wave" part of the wave/particle duality, probably because I'm an English teacher, but also because a fairly rapid look through this site has increased my belief in the notion that physicists are not really as good at English as they would like us to think. I am therefore, really glad to be able, at long last, to give vent to this deep unease I have had long held that something is wrong with this hypothesis/law/bright idea of wave/particle dualism.

My reasoning goes as follows:

Light could be made up of particles, because it's easy to understand; many things are made of particles deep down.
Light (and indeed anything else) could _not_ be made up of waves because waves are not things. Waves are "movements" of (other) things. You can have a wave of water, a wave of the hand, or a Mexican wave of people, but you can't say, "Oh that's made of waves, don't you know?"

Even the learned entry to which I am replying (from someone who clearly understands much more about light than I do) has to write things like, "photons are energy packets that travel ... in waves." or "if the energy wave ... travels in its original wave form." - giving voice to the unconscious realisation that there must be "something" that travels in waves, be it packets of energy or photons or whatever. Light is not made up of waves, but it may well travel in waves. This does not, however, explain to people like me, what light _is_ made up of. If a photon is not also a particle, then into what category does it fall? Certainly not "waves" as there cannot be a category of "waves", but only a category of "things which travel in waves".

That's my problem. I hope it's not too simple, but I simply can't let people, even though they be physicists, get away with saying that light is made up of waves, unless they also say, waves of .... something.

I would be pleased to be informed of the failings in this line of reasoning, so I can put this long-held doubt from my mind, and "move on".

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 22


This could be interesting, as I am more scientific minded and I have an inability to accept the "particle" part of the alleged duality. One response I have to deniswell is that light is not a thing, light is not a substance. Light is the propagation of electromagnetic energy from one place to another. In fact the question of what is it that actually "waves" is what started this whole relativity thing over a hundred years ago (the Michelson-Morley experiment to detect the "aether"), but I am afraid we still don't know for sure.
My thinking is that a "photon" is an amount of light energy, that is noticed and therefore thought of as a particle only when it (the e-m energy) impinges on a substance and that substance responds with electron movement (the photoelectric effect). This effect does not require, indeed it does not prove, that light travels as particles.
Here's my challenge: if light travels as a particle, and I have a point emitter of light (where the propagation of an amount of e-m energy expands as a sphere), in which direction does one photon travel?

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 23

Dad n Dave

People get confused about "waves" because their common visualisation is of a water wave traveling across the sea or a pond. The movement is however something of an illusion.

Until the wave breaks, the particles of water essentially do not move sideways at all - they just move in an orbital fashion. What does move is the energy and what we see is the effect of that energy movement. When the wave breaks, it throws water particles at the beach but the underlying reality is that it is the energy that has flowed from the wind to the water where, over time, it is transmitted to the beach. We see the particle of water but the wave is really a transmission mechanism for the energy.

In the same way, it seems to me that the light and other electromagnetic energy is propogated as a wave. What we perceive as a photon is the effect that that energy has when it hits a device that is able to detect the energy flow.

Does matter exist and does it matter?

Post 24


It does not matter that matter does not exist.


To Infinity and beyond!
For detailed explanation click http://www.visutech.net/peace365/index.asp?pageID=86


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