Wave or Particle or Both or Neither

I had mentioned Dr. John Bell having done groundbreaking work on entangled states in my review of some of the pivotal work discovering how the quantum world works. Let me lay some groundwork here, and here you will find my primary interest in talking about unitary field twists. Let’s start with the two-slit experiment–the start of it all when it comes to my thinking about twists. The two slit experiment demonstrates the quantum mechanical property that a particle will exhibit when it strikes a barrier with two slits in it. The particle will either be absorbed, reflected, or go through one or the other but not both, slits. The quantum oddity of the two-slit experiment is that the particle will hit the target as if it had gone through both slits and perform a wave-like interference with itself–this is observed by where the particle lands on the target. Here’s where it gets very weird–if both slits are open, there are certain areas on the target where the particle will not go due to wave-like interference of the particle with itself. But if one of the slits is covered up, this target area will get struck by the particle, an apparent logical impossibility. This is why we say that quantum mechanics requires that every particle have wave-like properties.

But wait–there’s more. If the particle is acting wavelike, then detectors placed at both slits should somehow detect the particle going through both slits. They never do–they always detect the particle like property of always going through one or the other. So what is it–a particle, or a wave? Conventional physics says it depends–if you don’t try to detect the particle, it will act as a wave and go through both. If you put detectors there, it will act as a particle and only go through one. You can put the detectors far behind the barrier with slits (so that the detector itself cannot affect the slit traversal outcome by proximity) and still get the same result.

The trouble with the “depends” answer is this doesn’t match anything we can observe at the macroscopic level, and even at the mathematical level this creates a paradox that has been argued to no end (see posts earlier on this blog for various thoughts on this). Reference the EPR decoherence and many histories and all kinds of other philosophical efforts to make sense out of it. Reference the “shut up and calculate” mindset of working the math to excellent accuracy in spite of not understanding what we are seeing in this experiment.

What this experiment really forces us to make sense of is what it means for something to move. Say what? What’s that got to do with anything? Think about it for a second. There’s two ways to think about what it means to move from point A to B. Either there is some object like a baseball that some how picks itself up and physically extricates itself from spot A and lands in spot B with all of the components now in the new location, or: there is an image, in some sense of the word, of a baseball in spot A, and through some kind of image copy the image disappears and reappears in spot B. No actual objects moved, but the image movement was effected by in-place alteration of field vector direction, say. Our macroscopic view of things would say that the first was a particle, and the second was a wave. For example, a circular ripple on a pond is a wave–there’s no net movement of water, yet the ripple can exert forces, tides, and so on–it is a real object that moves, even though there’s no underlying net movement of the field elements that compose the wave.

The problem that the two-slit experiment presents is conventional physics says that the detectors become a boundary condition for the form of the object, wave or particle. Physicists have worked through all the logic to have this come out correctly, but there is some level of debate about the right way to interpret what we see–I don’t think any physicist really claims they completely understand this. Just what is it that passes through those slits? If something passes through both slits to affect the direction of the something, but the something can never be detected in both slits, we can’t be talking about a wave or a particle. If it were only a wave, it should be detectable as such (in both slits). If it were a particle, the second slit can’t affect the path it takes. A third possibility, called the many-histories solution (initiated by Everett and advocated by Dr. Hawking) says that all possible paths and outcomes exist at once, undetectable by observers, and combine to produce what we see when the particle is detected. I don’t like this because it doesn’t really explain why a wave can’t be detected at both slits (and certainly has no observable analog or evidence in the macroscopic world–we never see anything but one outcome–who picked that outcome for us to see!). Note, though–the math, Feynman path integrals, is correct and does say that all possible paths (“histories”) have to be applied to get the correct solution, but I am debating that this can be interpreted to mean that all outcomes occurred. A fourth solution, called the Pilot Wave solution, suggests that particles have a wave-like shroud that somehow influences the path that the particle takes. I like this because it is a geometrical alternative to thinking of a quantum object as either a particle or a wave. And, it suits my pet theory of twists. Unitary field twists are quantized by the need for the twist to return to the background field state after turning, but the turn can be slightly abbreviated or extended if the background field is distorted (turned a bit). I can readily imagine this turning resulting from residual effects pouring through the second slit–the wave effect over all possible paths altered due to the presence of the two-slit barrier. And the twist has particle behavior as well, since the twist itself will only go through one slit–the field twist region is one dimensional along the axis of travel. Finally, getting back to what it means to move–the twist is represented by a unitary vector field whose components do not actually physically move, but turn and twist to create the image of an object that moves and interacts. Previous pilot wave approaches were hampered (more accurately, eliminated as possible models) because EM waves do not form solitons, or wave assemblies that are stable in time. Unitary field twists are stable topologically since the ends of the twist must match the background vector state, and thus have stable linear, ring, and other geometrical configurations.

Alright, I thinks! We have our answer! Uh, well, not so sure about that, and for the reason why we need to look at what Dr. Bell concluded and the Aspect experiment confirmed. Let’s save that for another post.



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