Sunday, July 9, 2017

UNDERSTANDING THE QUANTUM, THE PARTICLE/WAVE DUALITY

The quantum is the world of tiny, very tiny, unfathomably tiny sub atomic particles that make up the fabric of our bodies and the world around us.  It is said that “if you think you understand the quantum, then you don’t.”  That the behavior of these particles is so bizarre, so weird in relation to the way that things behave in our familiar world of visible objects, that it is just impossible to make any sense of it. The point of this post is to do exactly that, to suggest to you a framework in which not only quantum phenomena, but also phenomena in our familiar visible world, phenomena in the astonomical world of gigantic objects hurtling through space at unfathomable speeds and even the personal world of our internal experience all make some kind of consistent, coherent sense.

In this post I wont be discussing all the weirdness of the quantum, just one important aspect of it; the particle/wave duality. To do that we’ll hone in on the experiment through which the particle/wave duality was first discovered, the double slit experiment. Now please really focus on this so you can appreciate how truly weird this is.

Here is an illustration of this experiment done with light. 





We normally think of light as a wave, and it is, but it has also been found to contain tiny particles, minute packets of energy, that we call photons. In this illustration, light is shone at this wall that contains two slits, and some of that light goes through the slits and photons hit this plate, which is a light sensitive photographic plate; so when a photon hits it, it makes a tiny white dot. As the photons build up a white pattern emerges.  If I cover up one of these slits, so the light can only go through the other slit, you would expect to get a band of white, directly in line from the lamp, through the open slit, to the plate. That is what you would expect and that is what you get.  And if I expose this other slit, you would expect to get two bands of light in the direct line from the lamp, through either of the two slits and onto the plate.  That is  what you would expect, but that is not what you get.  

What you get is this: 



a series of bands of light alternating with bands of darkness. This is called an interference pattern.  And it is made when two waves overlap.   Waves move in crests and troughs.  When a crest emerging from one slit overlaps a crest emerging from the other slit, they make one higher crest and when this higher crest reaches the plate, you get a solid white band.  Same with troughs. If troughs from each wave overlap each other, then you get a deeper trough and when it reaches the plate you get another solid white band.  But if a crest overlaps a trough, their energies  cancel each other out. In that area, no photons reach the plate and you get a dark band.    Light, dark, light dark, like that.

So when the light goes through one slit, the photons behave like perfectly respectable particles, continue in their straight trajectory and you get one band.  But when both slits are open, you get a wave of light emerging from each slit, not a particle. The  two waves merge and you get this interference pattern. Although please note that no matter how the light travels from the slits to the plate, either as a wave or a particle, when it collides with the plate, it always collides as a particle; always making a single dot of white and not a white wave. That is important and I’ll get back to it later.

So this is weird, but here is something weirder. If I set up a detection device at the slits,  so we know which slit the photon is passing through: the first one went through the right slit, the second one went through the left, etc., when we know that, then the interference pattern disappears, the light acts like well behaved particles and we get just the two bands directly in line with the slits. When we know which slit the photon is passing through, we get the two bands; when we don’t know, we get the interference pattern.  Now that is very weird.

Okay, weirder than that:  If I dim the light so much, and reduce the aperture of the lamp so much that only one photon is being released at a time, say at intervals of ten seconds, and both slits are open, a tiny white dot will appear on the plate every ten seconds and very gradually a pattern will emerge; but that pattern will not be the two band pattern, it will be the interference pattern.  What?  Hold on!   How can one photon, or one wave, interfere with itself, or interfere with another photon that will be making a wave, but hasn’t made a wave yet?  That is very, very weird.

Most weird of all:  It doesn’t work just with light,  but with electrons, protons, neutrons, whole atoms, even molecules consisting of several atoms.  When you shoot particles at two slits and you don’t know which slit the particles are passing through, you will get an interference pattern,  indicating the intermingling of two waves and not the separate trajectories of two particles.

The atom?  The atom?  So long thought of as completely indivisible and eternal, the bedrock foundation of the materialist point of view, and then once it was split in the twentieth century  only with the release of terrifying powers, enough to decimate whole cities and the release of deadly radiation that threatens all of civilization;  this same atom, does what? casually morphs into a fluid wave, maybe two waves, mingles, becomes a particle again?  There’s no explosion, no damage.  The laboratory is fine, the equipment is fine, the researcher is fine.  What’s going on?

Erwin Shrodinger, a prominent physicist, first thought that the wave was  an extended form of the particle.  If the particle were, say, an electron, the wave would be a stretched out electron.  In that case, researchers felt, they should be able to detect fractional electrons.  If the particle is stretched out, there should be a tenth of an electron here, a twentieth of it there, etc.  Yet no such fractions were ever detected. If you are in the business of detecting electrons,  you either detect nothing or you detect a whole electron, with the same mass, the same charge, the same spin as every other electron. 

I should note here that all the subatomic particles that we will be discussing have never been seen.  They are way, way too small for that.  They are detected, but not seen, by detecting a certain mass, a certain spin and a certain charge coming from a precise, discrete area.   

So if the wave is not an extended form of the particle, then what is it? There is no agreed upon understanding of what the wave is and no agreed upon explanation for the wave/particle duality. There are methods of calculating, and calculating very accurately,  the probabilities of where particles will be if they become waves and create interference patterns; basically, the brighter areas of the pattern would be the areas where a particle would be more likely to show up, and dimmer areas, less so.  But these are methods of calculating results, not explanations of how these results are achieved; not explaining in a satisfying way what a wave is, or why it  turns into a particle, if it does,  or why a particle turns into a wave,  if it does, or why in the world it is effected by whether or not we know which slit the particles are passing through.  

The field abounds with wild speculations:  The wave is a wave of probability.  It susses out, like a pathfinder,  all the places along the interference pattern where a particle could land, but doesn’t actually move the particle there, itself.  Then, how does the particle move from the slits to the plate?  Actually, it doesn’t. The particle disappears into another universe when it leaves the slits and reappears at the plate, shuttling back and forth between two universes.  Or, each particle lands at every possible landing site on the interference pattern, but in a different universe for each site.  Or, there is no wave.  The  particle simultaneously travels every possible path from the lamp through the slits to the plate, including getting there via the moon and the Andromeda galaxy and is effected by the forces it encounters on each of these journeys, until all other paths are cancelled out except the ones that will bring it to the interference pattern, with more paths leading to the brighter spots and fewer paths leading to the dimmer spots.  This one is called the ‘sum of paths’ approach and although it calculates the probable location of particles with great accuracy, it’s author, Richard Feynman, is the very man who said, “If you think you understand the quantum, then you don’t.”

Many prominent scientists have been pondering the particle/wave duality for  over a century; Neils Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck among them.  As brilliant as these men were, they were all looking at the world from a Western perspective which is really, now, the dominant modern perspective of both East and West.  And deeply, deeply ingrained in this perspective is the idea  that forces are connected to matter, and emanate from matter.  That matter, in the form of particles, is the foundational structure of our universe and that everything, including forces, planets, galaxies, even life, consciousness and love, somehow come out of the endless and countless and unguided interplay of these particles. 

If you went to school when I did, you learned that civilization and the accumulation of accurate knowledge began in Greece, not quite three thousand years ago, proceeded to Rome , continued from there through a few different European countries until some of those European people came to America at which point some of civilization and real learning spread here as well.  

About 2500 years ago Democritus, in Greece, had the idea that the world around us was not made of solid matter, that it was actually divided into tiny bits, way too small to be seen,  that he called atoms, from the Greek word atomos, which means indivisible.

Here is an illustration of Democritus’ conception of the atom: 








One thing you have to say about Democritus…the man had balls (author lamely attempts to interject humor into serious essay).  These smooth round balls were atoms of water. When you separated water, the balls rolled over each other, so there was no need of cutting. This one is iron, also a ball, but these balls have spikes. So the balls can’t roll over each other, you have to cut iron, but when you do, you are cutting the spikes and not the balls. The balls, the atoms, were indivisible, indestructible and the ultimate foundation of the universe.

As models of the atom evolved over time, the amount of space take up by actual matter within the atom continued to get smaller and smaller.  In 1913 Niels Bohr, improving on a model by Ernest Rutherford,  provided us with this which you may be familiar with:


  


Here the atom is no longer indivisible.  It now contains three particles:  positively charged protons and neutral neutrons,  which make up the nucleus, circled by negatively charged particles called electrons.  And on many of these charts you will see a notation stating that the size of the nucleus in relation to the atom, and the size of the electron in relation to the nucleus are not in true proportion.  Why is that?  Because, if the nucleus were the size of a pea, the atom would be the size of a race track; a pea inside a race track, or inside a sphere whose diameter was equal to the length of a race track.  And the electron, being one thousandth the size of the nucleus and one hundred millionth the size of the entire atom, would not be seen at all.  But as tiny  as these subatomic particles were, they now replaced the atom as the indivisible, indestructible and ultimate foundation of the universe.

So this would be as good a time as any to give you some sense of just how tiny these tiny particles are.  On average, a million living cells can fit on the head of a pin.  Our bodies contain, on average,  37.2 trillion cells.  Each cell contains many, many trillions of atoms; one hundred trillion atoms per cell is commonly estimated.  That means that in your body there are roughly 3700 trillion, trillion atoms.  And now we are talking about an electron which is one hundred millionth the size of that and a nucleus which is proportionally the size of a pea in relation to the race track size of an atom.  Utterly unimaginable, yes?

So the balls in the Neils Bohr diagram are not at all proportional.  But no matter what their size, what are they made of? The smallest piece of matter that we know of is the atom, but these subatomic particles which are way, way smaller than an atom, could not possibly be made of any material made from atoms.  Is there some other, much simpler substance that subatomic particles are made of, some substance that is completely unknown to us, but that is found within every atom in the universe?  Well these particles have mass, so they must contain some matter.  Not necessarily.  Mass is not matter.  The greatest mass in the universe is found inside black holes, but they may have no matter within them at all, since the contractive force inside a black hole is so great that it crushes all atoms and molecules out of existence.  

Well what of the atom itself?  If this were an atom of gold, say, would this entire atom be encased in a ball of gold? No.  When you calculate the mass of an atom, you calculate the masses of the protons, the neutrons and a tiny bit more for the electrons.  There is no extra calculation for an encasing ball.  These three tiny particles, taking up one one hundred thousandth the space of the atom, these tiny particles and the forces of attraction and repulsion between them, these, somehow, are the atom; these tiny particles somehow are gold.  Somehow, but how?

So now we have the Standard Model of Particle Physics; according to which neutrons and protons are no longer indivisible or indestructible.  They each contain an array of smaller, subatomic particles including up quarks and down quarks, and gauge bosons which supposedly carry the forces that hold the other subatomic particles together.  These gauge bosons are not force generators, however, just force carriers.  In the same way that a letter carrier does not compose the letters that she carries and the milk man, himself, does not produce the milk. The Standard Model provides a theory as to how these forces are delivered, not what they are, or how they are made.  Many Standard Model physicists even say that the force carrier has no internal content, that what it is actually carrying is a message.  For instance, in the case of photons which are, supposedly, the force carriers of electro-magnetism, negative particles, like electrons, are shooting photons at other negative particles that are sending the message “Stay Away,” and then shooting identical photons at positive particles that are now, somehow, carrying the message “Come Closer.” Also note that these physicists say there is no internal content to the force carrier, implying that there is still an external content, an encapsulation of some sort,  which brings us back to the question of what material could that capsule possibly be made of?  And then there is the question, of course, of how these messages  are articulated and how they are understood if we are not talking about communication between conscious beings or sophisticated electronic equipment, but between impossibly tiny particles?

In the Standard Model the quark and the electron are considered to be point particles, and to be made out of an elementary material, way more elementary than atoms,  and a different material for each subatomic particle, many of which I haven’t mentioned here, seventeen in all.  The quark and the electron and the materials that they are made out of are now considered to be,  just as atoms were once considered to be, and just as neutrons and protons were once considered to be, the  indivisible and indestructible, ultimate foundation of the universe.  

Yet if they are truly point particles, how could they be made of any material?  How could they truly be a point?  Isn’t a point an idealized notion that couldn’t really have a physical reality?  A point has no dimensions.  It can be represented by a dot, but a dot is not a point.  The tiniest dot has some diameter, otherwise it wouldn’t exist.  But if it had a diameter it wouldn’t really be a point.  A point can only really exist in our imagination.  And if it were a point,  how could it spin or have mass or be made of any matter whatsoever? 

More recently there are string theorists, who believe that string theory is the T.O.E.  the theory of everything.  They believe that the quarks and electrons are not point particles;  that within the quark and the electron are some tiny dimension and within that dimension are tiny, tiny loops of string; and the vibrations of those strings, which are under enormous tension, and the strange shapes that those loops of string are in when they do this vibrating, account for all the different masses and charges and spins of all the different subatomic particles in which they are located. 



So here we have an apple, 
made of many, many atoms,
which in turn are made of 
electrons, protons and neutrons; and the protons and neutrons are, in turn, made of quarks; and the quarks and
electrons are not points, but have some tiny dimension within which we find these strangely shaped loops of vibrating strings. 



So what are these strings made out of?  No one knows, of course, since they are way, way, way too tiny to be seen.  To give you an idea of just how tiny they are, think about this.  If an atom, which we already know is unimaginably small,  if an atom were blown up to be the size of the known universe, 95 billion light years long, each light year being almost six trillion miles, 550 billion, trillion miles, so that it would take light, which circumnavigates our globe seven times a second, it would take light, traveling at that speed, ninety-five billion years to cross the universe; if an atom were blown up to be that size;  then one of those loops of string blown up at the same ratio as the atom, would be the size.... of a small tree. And the theory is that these strings are made of some unknown and unobserved substance that really is, as opposed to the atoms, and the protons and neutrons, and the quarks and electrons, that preceded them, the truly ultimate and indestructible foundation of the universe and the answer to everything. 

But for a string to vibrate, like in a violin or in a piano, it must be secured in two places.  And for a string to be under such enormous tension as these strings are supposed to be under, it would have to be secured very tightly and strongly in these two places.  So what would be anchoring these strings and what would be anchoring those anchors and, most of all, who or what is plucking these strings to keep each of them continually vibrating at the same precise amplitude and frequency as required for each of the seventeen different subatomic particles?  The Theory of Everything seems to create as many questions as answers.

Let's leave this quandary for a moment to discuss something else. As shocking as this may be to people that had a similar education to mine, when Democritus was contemplating his balls (yet another lame attempt), there were other people that were considering the nature of matter and the nature of the universe  and the nature of themselves and had already been doing so for thousands of years, in places that would later be called Africa,  Asia, the Indian Subcontinent,  Japan,  the Americas and the Middle East.  And the way that they considered these things and what they uncovered were remarkably similar, not to Democritus, but to each other.  Their method of discovery was in many ways the opposite of what we usually think of as study, which is to fill our minds with all the theories and points of view that experts in a particular field had thought of previously.  Their method was, through various practices, like fasting, meditation, chanting, repetitive prayers and movements,  to empty their minds.  They wanted to use their mind not as an emitter, but as a receiver, and they were searching for inspiration, insight, the taking in of information that they believed was already out there and that they would become more receptive to the more the mind was emptied of restless thoughts, of any thoughts.  This is not research.  This is search.  

And the understanding gleaned from these searches done all over the world through many centuries, was, although expressed through many different languages and cultures, the same understanding.  This was monistic dualism; from one comes two and from two comes everything else.  That one has been referred to as the Atman, the Cosmic Consciousness, God, Infinity, Hashem, Allah and by many other names.  The names of course don’t matter.  The first line of the Tao Te Ching is “the name that can be named is not the nameless name”  which means that whatever the One is, it is not a name; it can be sensed, experienced to a degree, but not defined.  It is too fine to be defined.  From one comes two; and those two have been referred to as In and Yo, Shiva and Shakti, the Celestial and the Terrestrial, Tirawa and Akira, Baqa and Fana, Yin and Yang, Father Sky and Mother Earth, etc.  

Now there are spiritual materialists in every religion who don’t do their own actual searching, and materialize these names and think of them as some kind of physical beings floating in the sky; but the people that actually do the searching are not spiritual materialists, they are spiritual spiritualists and they know that these various names are opposing forces, not people or floating beings.  The important point here is that these two opposing forces have the capacity to configure with each other, to form shapes and fields of mutual attraction and repulsion, and it is these shapes and the fields of attraction and repulsion within them, that create the physical universe, or the illusion of the physical universe.  From this perspective, there are no particles.  Forces do not emanate from matter, rather matter, or the illusion of matter emanates from the interplay of forces. And it is these forces that are truly foundational. They are not composed of particles.  Rather particles, or the appearance of particles  are created by the interaction of forces. Western scientists identify particles by detecting a certain mass, a certain spin and a certain charge in a specific area, and assume that there is a particle there, a particle of some kind of matter, that has these qualities.  But what if there were no particles?  What if mass and spin and charge were being generated by the interaction of two configuring forces and there was no need to interject particles or matter into the picture at all?  

Oh, I did mention that one of the places where these contemplations were taking place was the Middle East, didn’t I?  Look at these two sentences:


                 Infinity Bifurcates Into Yin and Yang.


    In The Beginning, God Created The Heaven And The Earth.
     

The first sentence is the cosmological  foundation of Taoism, an ancient Chinese religion.  The second, of course, is the first line of the Bible, the Old Testament, which is the foundation of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and was written at least a thousand years before Democritus.  Now this is certainly not a bible study, but if you actually look at Genesis, you will see that the earth, as in our planet, did not exist on that first day.  Everything was formless and void.  The waters were not gathered into a shape until the second day, which of course was not a twenty-four hour day, but an epoch, because the earth, as in our planet, did not begin to be created until the  second day, and there was no sun for it to revolve around until the fourth day, or fourth epoch,  when the stars and the sun were created.  So the Heaven and the Earth referred to in that first sentence could not possibly mean our planet and the starry sky, but two opposing forces, and their interplay, beginning with light, (In the beginning God created the Heaven and the Earth and God said,” Let there be light, and there was light.”) from that interplay, and that burst of light, everything else was  created .  The meaning of sentence one and sentence two are identical. 

It is also worth noting that  the current modern understanding of the Big Bang is that it began with an infinitesimal dot of something that was too small even to be a particle, but that somehow contained all the contractive force of the universe suppressing all the expansive force of the universe when, suddenly, there was a cataclysmic explosion of expansive force, creating unfathomable heat and light, and space and time and the physical universe  unfolded.  Also, that initial speck, that pre-dates particles but was the progenitor of everything in the  universe is referred to by modern physicists as the Singularity.  From a Singularity, a  hugely contractive force and a hugely expansive force, led to an explosion of light and the unfolding of the universe.  Which proves that things eventually come full circle, and if you head due West and I head due East, eventually, eventually, maybe very soon, we will come together.

I will be using the words yin and yang, but they are interchangeable with any of the other pairs of forces that I just mentioned. I am sure you have heard of yin and yang, but probably used in a Western way. Some things are yin, some are yang, and yin and yang are characteristics, qualities of things.  I will be using yin and yang in an ancient, or pre-industrial way.  Yin and yang are not qualities of things; they are the things themselves; or they, in combination, give the illusion of things.  Every naturally formed object, from atoms to organisms, to planets and stars and galaxies,  are more yang at the center and more yin at the periphery.  Yang is contractive and yin is expansive.  Yang pulls things into the center.  Yin expands things out to the periphery. The dimension of a thing is created by yin.  The contours, the boundaries of a thing are created by yang. 

When yin and yang interact they form spirals. It's easier for me to show you than to try and explain it, besides it gives me, the desperate author, another way to try and hold on to your flagging attention.  So take a look at this video


               

This is a particle and this is a wave.  The particle is a yang formation and the wave is a yin formation.  And since the wave is yin, the expansive, dispersive power is dominant and the yang energy is dispersed into a stream of
energy packets.  The wave consists of that stream of yang energy packets with the yin energy spiraling around those packets.

How does this wave become yangized?  How does it collapse in from being a wave to being a particle?  Because that’s what happens when we focus on it.  We collapse waves into particles.  That’s what living beings do.  Our brains and nervous systems are set up to carve out a particular world of specific objects and experiences from a world of wave potentials.  We each delineate a particular human experience,  as a caterpillar, with very different sensory equipment, delineates a particular caterpillar experience.  Western scientists don’t see their complicity in this.  They think they are revealing an objective world of particles, but their very instruments of detection and their human brains and nervous systems are carving out a seeming world of particles from a reality of waves. 

We are each a particular being in a wave of humanity.  We are a particular species in a wave of life.  The defined boundaries that separate one thing from another, one particle from another,  one person from another, only exist in clear definition when we focus on them. When we don’t, we are mingling, overlapping waves.  

Let me give you an example.  Let’s say you’re at a party, and you’re very relaxed.  Your body is in a wave state, which it always is, by the way, when you are not focussed on it,  and your are effortlessly responding, mingling, with the thoughts and the jokes and the vibrations of the people you are talking to, the music being played, etc. Unbeknownst to you, someone is looking at you from across the room.  This person is objectifying, or particularizing you.  They are not looking at you as a boundless, fluid wave, but as an object, a physical body which they may consider to be an object of attraction or disdain.  You, experiencing your body as a responsive wave, suddenly become aware of this person’s attention.  The observer’s yangizing focus on you, makes you contract.  Suddenly you are not experiencing your body as a wave, but as an object.  You are aware of your body as a thing, with weight and contours.  Your body becomes a wall separating you from the party which is on the other side of the wall.  You may arrange your body to encourage a positive or a negative response from the observer, but suddenly you find yourself arranging this thing, your body,  to make different impressions rather than not thinking about your body and allowing it to respond and intermingle wavelike with whatever vibrational stimuli are coming at it.   

You don’t, like the photons and the electrons in the two slit experiment, completely change shape and disperse all over the room when you are in a wave state.  Photons and electrons are so tiny that they can expand and contract easily in the spaces between atoms.  An object the size of your body is limited in it’s expansion by the force fields of all the countless atoms surrounding it. Yet there is still a tiny expansion in the wave state and a tiny contraction in the particle state that may be too small to be observed by others but very vividly experienced when it is your body that is doing the expanding and contracting.   

Also, note that at first the observer was experiencing your body as an object while you were experiencing it as a wave.  This doesn’t mean there were two different universes.  In the same universe, two different observers were experiencing the same object or wave in two different ways.  Particular objects, including particular living objects, like our bodies, are really wave potentials, with the potential to do what?  To be experienced in a multitude of different particular ways by ourselves and whichever other living being happens to be observing  them.  Certainly the trillions of bacteria in my digestive tract experience my body in an entirely different way than I do. It’s just one body, though, in one universe.  Not a multitude of universes, but a multitude of ways of experiencing the wave potentials within this one universe. 

At any given moment, including right now, I am particularizing whatever it is that I am focussing on.  This is the content of my experience.  The context of my experience, everything that I am not focussing on, but is somehow impacting my experience, is a mingled wave of many parts, including the temperature of the room, body sensations, memories and relationships; a whole host of things that merge into one subliminal, contextual wave that effects me as a wave, until or unless I focus on any one of those elements, at which point it  emerges into consciousness from a wave into a particular memory, thought or body sensation, at which point whatever I was previously focussed on, merges back into the contextual wave state.  

Let’s go back to the two slit experiment and see if we can now clear up some of the weirdness of it. First of all, Shrodinger was right.  The wave is a more yin, more expanded form of the particle, although a better way of saying it might be that the particle is a contracted form of the wave.  So why do we never detect fractional particles along the wave?  If a detector hits that part of the wave where there are no energy packets, the detector will register nothing.  If it does hit one of the packets, which really is a fraction of an electron, then the energy of the detector adds enough energy to collapse the wave so that all the yang energy goes to the point of detection, the yin wave makes a tight spiral around it and we have a particle or what the detector will register as a particle.  That is why we never register fractional electrons.  Either we miss a packet and  register nothing or we hit a packet with enough energy to collapse the wave at the point of observation and we detect the whole particle.  In exactly the same process,  the molecules of the photographic plate in the double slit experiment have enough energy to collapse the first energy packet of a wave that collides with it, into a particle.  That is why, even if the light arrives at the plate as a wave, it makes it’s impact on the plate as a particle, a single white dot, and not a white wave.

It's like you're hosting a party for your eight year old.  There are thirty kids in attendance and they are everywhere: all through the yard, the attic, the basement, every nook and cranny of your property.  You want to take a photo, so you go all through the house and the yard and in a very commanding (yang) voice, you summon every one to a single spot in the living room; put your kid in the center; take one shot that squeezes all thirty of them into the photo; and before you can say "thank you,"  all thirty kids have dispersed back all over the house and the yard again.  

This is precisely what happens when we focus on anything, either with our unaided senses or with a detection device. Within the atom, all the particles we detect are waves that are collapsed by our system of detection.  The atom is not an empty sphere composed of 99.999% space with a few extremely tiny particles rattling around in it.  Those particles are always in a wave state, with the same masses and spins and charges that we measure but spread out over a much wider area.  There is the  force field, or the event horizon, between the yang nucleus wave at the center and the yin electron waves at the periphery, but rather than being empty space, that is the very force field that gives the atomic element the qualities as we perceive them: it's hardness or softness, its color and texture.  There is nothing within the atom to collapse the electron waves or the nucleus wave into particles unless in the extremely unlikely event that an atom is chosen from an endless multitude of atoms to be used in laboratories and probed with wave collapsing detection devices.

In fact we are all waves until something happens to collapse us into particles. Although that something, in humans, is usually ourselves, because we want to particularize ourselves, to distinguish ourselves in some particular way.  But the deeper reality, underneath all of that, is that we really are waves, one wave.  

In the double slit experiment, the photons or the electrons move as waves, not particles.  It is only when they are collapsed by the photon counter in the lamp, the detection devices at the slit wall or the photographic plate,  that they appear as particles. So when just the single slit is open, the light moves from the lamp to the slit as a wave, which narrows when it passes through the slit and opens up when it leaves it, but directly in line with the plate.  We’ve all dropped stones into a pond and watched the waves moving away from the stone in expanding circles. Think of this light wave as an expanding circle.  The wave emerges from the slit as an expanding circle, so the foremost part of the wave that will collide with the plate is directly in front of the slit,  in a line from the lamp through the slit to the plate. And the molecules of the photographic plate when they come in contact with the foremost energy packet in this part of the wave, will add enough energy to collapse the wave around the packet, creating a dot of white.  As the process is repeated, the dots build up and we get this solid white band.

When two slits are open, each particle, traveling as a wave, goes through both slits,  creating two waves which interfere with each other, and wherever along the interference pattern the first energy packet hits the plate, it collapses the wave at the point of impact and a white dot is formed, these dots eventually building up an interference pattern.

When we use  detection devices, they are placed to either side of the slits, at the point where the wave is about to enter both slits.  If the first energy packet that is detected happens to be on the right, the whole wave is collapsed to the right; if it happens to be on the left, then the whole wave is collapsed to the left.  The particle is then detected, and proceeds as a wave, but only from that one slit.  So single waves are proceeding separately from each slit and not mingling, and we get, just as in the single slit experiment, a white band building up, but this time there are two bands building up alternately,  one directly in line with the right slit and one directly in line with the left slit.

So that’s it.  That’s the explanation.  I did not invoke multiple universes, or the simultaneous travel of one particle over an infinite number of paths, just a fairly straightforward, hopefully understandable, explanation of what seemed to be, at first, an impossibly weird situation.  



Whether you have held me, particle-like, at arm’s length, or allowed your wave to mingle with mine, either way, I thank you for listening.  


As usual, your comments are always welcome.

2 comments:

Bill Schwan said...

My only reaction to your latest offering comes directly from Nils Bohr: "For those who are not shocked when they come across quantum theory cannot possibly have understood it." Dude, now my brain hurts. But then anyone of the maritime stripe can at least deduce the existence of the moon because there are tides. If the only reality is observer based, that is. The moon is only there because we look at it. But a month from now we will know the Moon exists even if we don't depend on the tides for our livelihood, the moon will cause a shadow that will pass directly over my son's house in South Carolina. I have instructed that I be treated to many images of the event. I'm not travelling ten hours just to see a total solar eclipse. Though I probably should as this will be the last chance of seeing one in my lifetime. And if I'm not there to observe it, will it actually happen He wondered.

Bill Schwan said...

May I say I appreciate the insertion of non-western thought paradigms? Ideas that are unfamiliar to a western thinker like me that explain the universe more effectively don't threaten my way of thinking but seem to focus that thought through a different sort of lens that makes how I view the world sharper, oddly enough. Still a young earth creationist, and still a dualist. That is, viewing matter and the mind as two separate things. Dualism has been around a long time. Dualism skeptics have been around a long time, too. It seems these days we are of two minds where dualism is concerned. Some of us like to think there is a soul in there somewhere while those inured to the likes of Dawkins and his ilk take the view that it's just neurons firing. I guess dualism began to be called into question with the rise of the scientific revolution in which the brain was viewed as a machine, reductionism run amok in my opinion. Hence dualism is relegated to the trash-heap of history, along with alchemy and astrology. But the means by which proponents of dualism seek to prove dualism is things like astrology...or at the most general, paranormal phenomenon. If telekinesis can be proven, it would also prove that there are forces outside the realm of physics. If you can read a mind, doesn't that imply that there is a mind to be read? Which is probably why naturalists are so gung ho to debunk the paranormal, in an effort to defend their own atheistic view that we are nothing more than puppets dancing on the strings of physiology. If you claim that moving objects with your mind is real but how do you know that you bent the spoon with your mind? Maybe the spoon decided to bend all on its own.And what good is it to live in a dualistic universe where the spoons are all bent and useless. How do I eat my ice cream???