In 1905, 26-year-old Albert Einstein suggested something very outrageous: that light could be a wave or a particle. This idea is just as weird as it sounds. How could two things be so different? A particle is small and confined to a small space, while a wave is something that propagates. Particles collide with each other and scatter around. Waves break and drift. They add or cancel each other in overlays. These are very different behaviours.
hidden in translation
The problem with wave-particle duality is that language has problems accommodating both behaviors coming from the same object. After all, language is built from our experiences and emotions, from the things we see and feel. We don’t see or feel photons directly. We study their nature through experimental setups, gathering information through screens, counters, and the like.
The photons’ dual behavior emerges in response to how we set up our experiment. If we had light passing through narrow slits, it would deflect like a wave. If you hit the electrons, they will scatter like particles. So, in a way, it is our experience, the question we ask, that determines the physical nature of light. This introduces a new element to physics: the interaction of the observer with the observed. In the most extreme interpretations, we can roughly say that the experimenter’s intention determines the physical nature of what is being observed—that reason determines physical reality. This really is there, but what we can say for sure is that light responds to the question we ask in different ways. In a sense, light is both a wave and a particle, not either.
This brings us to the Bohr model of the atom, which we discussed a couple of weeks ago. His model fixes the electrons that orbit the atomic nucleus in specific orbits. An electron can only be in one of these orbitals, As if it were placed on a train track. He can jump between orbits, but he can’t be between them. How exactly is this done? For Bohr, the question was an open one. The answer came from a remarkable feat of physical intuition, and it revolutionized our understanding of the world.
The nature of the wave of baseball
In 1924, historian-turned-physicist Louis de Broglie showed quite astonishingly that the step-like electron orbits in Bohr’s atomic model could be easily understood if the electron were pictured as consisting of standing waves surrounding the nucleus. These waves are very similar to the waves we see when we jiggle a rope attached to the other end. In the case of the rope, the standing wave pattern appears due to the constructive and destructive interference between waves going back and forth along the rope. For the electron, standing waves appear for the same reason, but now the electron wave closes in on itself like Ouroboros, the mythical serpent that swallows its own tail. When we shake our rope harder, the standing wave pattern displays more peaks. An electron in higher orbitals corresponds to a standing wave with more peaks.
With Einstein’s enthusiastic support, de Broglie boldly extended the idea of wave-particle duality from light to electrons and, by extension, to every moving physical body. Not only light, but any kind was associated with waves.
De Broglie introduced a formula known as Broly’s wavelength Calculates the wavelength of any substance with mass M move quickly Fifth. Connect wavelength λ to M And the Fifth – and thus to momentum p = mv – according to the relation λ = h/pwhere h is Planck’s constant. The formula can be refined for objects moving near the speed of light.
For example, a baseball moving at 70 km per hour has a de Broglie wavelength of about 22 trillionths of a trillionth of a centimeter (or 2.2 x 10)-32 cm). Obviously, there isn’t much wiggling there, and we’re justified in portraying baseball as a solid object. By contrast, an electron moving at one-tenth the speed of light has a wavelength about half the size of a hydrogen atom (more precisely, half the size of the most probable distance between the atomic nucleus and the electron at its lowest energy state).
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While the wave nature of a moving baseball is irrelevant to understanding its behavior, the wave nature of an electron is essential to understanding its behavior in atoms. The crucial point, though, is that everything is waves. Electron, baseball and you.
De Broglie’s brilliant idea has been confirmed in countless experiments. In undergraduate physics classes, we show how electrons passing through a crystal diffraction like waves, with a superposition that creates dark and bright spots due to destructive and constructive interference. Anton Zellinger, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics this year, has advocated deformation of objects much larger, than C-shaped, into the shape of a soccer ball.60 molecule (containing 60 carbon atoms) to biological macromolecules.
The question is how life would behave under this diffraction experiment on a quantum level. Quantum biology is a new frontier, where wave-particle duality plays a major role in the behavior of organisms. Can life survive quantum superposition? Can quantum physics tell us something about the nature of life?
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