Paradoxes of quantum physics

(ORDO NEWS) — “If they ask if his position is permanent, you need to say no, if you ask if it changes over time, you need to say no. If they ask if he is still, you need to say no; if you ask if he is moving, you need to say no.

The laws of quantum mechanics are very difficult to perceive, similar to mystical revelations, and these words of Robert Oppenheimer about the behavior of the electron could well have been said by Lao Tzu two and a half thousand years before the advent of modern physics.

Introduction. The fundamental difficulty of understanding quantum theory

It is difficult to imagine what our civilization would look like without classical physics and mathematics. The concepts of an absolute “objective reality that exists independently of our consciousness”, of three-dimensional Euclidean space and uniformly flowing time are so deeply rooted in the mind that we do not notice them.

And most importantly, we refuse to notice that they are applicable only in some routine situations and are simply incorrect for explaining the structure of the Universe.

Although something like this was already expressed centuries ago by Eastern philosophers and mystics, it was Einstein who first spoke about it in Western science. It was a revolution that our consciousness did not accept.

With condescension we repeat: “everything is relative”, “time and space are one”, always keeping in mind that this is an assumption, a scientific abstraction that has little in common with our usual stable reality. In fact, just our ideas are poorly correlated with reality – amazing and incredible.

After the structure of the atom was discovered in general terms and its “planetary” model was proposed, scientists were faced with many paradoxes, to explain which a whole branch of physics appeared – quantum mechanics. It developed rapidly and advanced far in explaining the universe. But these explanations are so difficult to understand that so far few people can understand them at least in general terms.

Indeed, most of the achievements of quantum mechanics are accompanied by such a complex mathematical apparatus that it simply cannot be translated into any of the human languages.

Mathematics, like music, is an extremely abstract subject, and scientists are still struggling with an adequate expression of meaning, for example, the folding of functions or multidimensional Fourier series. The language of mathematics is strict but bears little relation to our direct perception.

In addition, Einstein showed mathematically that our concepts of time and space are illusory. In reality, space and time are inseparable and form a single four-dimensional continuum. It is hardly possible to imagine it, because we are used to dealing with only three dimensions.

Planetary theory. wave or particle

Until the end of the 19th century, atoms were considered indivisible “elements”. The discovery of radiation allowed Rutherford to penetrate under the “shell” of the atom and formulate a planetary theory of its structure: the main mass of the atom is concentrated in the nucleus.

The positive charge of the nucleus is compensated by negatively charged electrons, whose dimensions are so small that their mass can be neglected. Electrons revolve around the nucleus in orbits, similar to the rotation of the planets around the Sun. The theory is very beautiful, but there are a number of contradictions.

First, why don’t negatively charged electrons “fall” onto a positive nucleus? Secondly, in nature, atoms collide millions of times per second, which does not harm them in the least – how to explain the amazing strength of the entire system?

In the words of one of the “fathers” of quantum mechanics, Heisenberg, “no planetary system that obeys the laws of Newtonian mechanics will ever return to its original state after colliding with another similar system.” In addition, the dimensions of the nucleus, in which almost all the mass is collected, are extremely small in comparison with the whole atom.

We can say that an atom is a void in which electrons rotate at a frantic speed. In this case, such an “empty” atom appears as a very solid particle. The explanation for this phenomenon goes beyond the classical understanding.

In fact, at the subatomic level, the speed of a particle increases the more, the more limited the space in which it moves. So the closer an electron is attracted to the nucleus, the faster it moves and the more it repels itself from it. The speed of movement is so great that “from the outside” the atom “looks solid”, as the blades of a rotating fan look like a disc.

Data that do not fit well into the framework of the classical approach appeared long before Einstein. For the first time, such a “duel” took place between Newton and Huygens, who tried to explain the properties of light.

Newton argued that this is a stream of particles, Huygens considered light to be a wave. It is impossible to reconcile their positions within the framework of classical physics. After all, for her, a wave is a transmitted excitation of the particles of the medium, a concept applicable only to a variety of objects.

None of the free particles can move along a wave-like trajectory. But an electron moves in a deep vacuum, and its movements are described by the laws of wave motion. What is excited here if there is no environment? Quantum physics offers a Solomonic solution: light is both a particle and a wave.

Probabilistic electron clouds. The structure of the nucleus and nuclear particles

Gradually it became more and more clear: the rotation of electrons in orbits around the nucleus of an atom is completely different from the rotation of planets around a star. Having a wave nature, electrons are described in terms of probability.

We cannot say about an electron that it is located at such and such a point in space, we can only describe approximately in what areas it can be located and with what probability. Around the nucleus, electrons form “clouds” of such probabilities from the simplest spherical to very bizarre shapes, similar to ghost photographs.

But anyone who wants to finally understand the structure of the atom must turn to its basis, to the structure of the nucleus.

The large elementary particles that make it up – positively charged protons and neutral neutrons – also have a quantum nature, which means that they move faster than they are enclosed in a smaller volume. Since the dimensions of the nucleus are extremely small even in comparison with an atom, these elementary particles are carried around at quite decent speeds, close to the speed of light.

To finally explain their structure and behavior, we need to “cross” quantum theory with the theory of relativity. Unfortunately, such a theory has not yet been created and we will have to confine ourselves to a few generally accepted models.

The theory of relativity has shown (and experiments have proven) that mass is only one of the forms of energy. Energy is a dynamic quantity associated with processes or work. Therefore, an elementary particle should be perceived as a probabilistic dynamic function, as interactions associated with the continuous transformation of energy.

This gives an unexpected answer to the question of how elementary elementary particles are, whether they can be divided into “even simpler” blocks. If we disperse two particles in the accelerator, and then collide, we will get not two, but three particles, and they are exactly the same. The third will simply arise from the energy of their collision – thus, they will separate and not separate at the same time!

Participant instead of observer

In a world where the concepts of empty space, isolated matter lose their meaning, a particle is described only through its interactions. In order to say something about it, we will have to “tear” it out of the initial interactions and, having prepared it, subject it to another interaction – measurement.

So what do we end up measuring? And how legitimate are our measurements in general, if our intervention changes the interactions in which the particle participates, and therefore changes the particle itself?

In modern elementary particle physics, more and more criticism is caused by … the very figure of the scientist-observer. It would be more correct to call him a “participant”.

An observer-participant is necessary not only to measure the properties of a subatomic particle, but also to determine these very properties, because they can only be discussed in the context of interaction with an observer.

As soon as he chooses the way in which he will carry out measurements, and depending on this, the possible properties of the particle are realized. It is worth changing the observing system, and the properties of the observed object will also change.

This important point reveals the deep unity of all things and phenomena. The particles themselves, constantly changing into one another and into other forms of energy, do not have constant or precise characteristics – these characteristics depend on the way we choose to see them.

If you want to measure one property of a particle, the other is bound to change. Such a limitation is not connected with the imperfection of instruments or other completely correctable things. This is a characteristic of reality.

Try to accurately measure the position of a particle, and you will not be able to tell anything about the direction and speed of its movement – simply because it will not have them. Describe exactly the motion of a particle – you won’t find it in space. Thus, modern physics poses before us problems of a completely metaphysical nature.

The principle of uncertainty. Place or momentum, energy or time

We have already said that it is impossible to talk about subatomic particles in the exact terms we are used to, in the quantum world we are left with only probability. This, of course, is not the probability that people talk about when betting on races, but a fundamental property of elementary particles. They don’t really exist, but rather they can exist.

They do not exactly have characteristics, but rather they can have them. Scientifically speaking, a particle is a dynamic probabilistic scheme, and all its properties are in constant moving balance, balancing, like Yin and Yang on the ancient Chinese taiji symbol. No wonder the Nobel laureate Niels Bohr, elevated to the rank of nobility, chose this sign and motto for his coat of arms: “Opposites complement each other.”

Mathematically, the probability distribution is a non-uniform wave oscillation. The greater the amplitude of the wave in a certain place, the higher the probability of the existence of a particle in it. Moreover, its length is not constant – the distances between neighboring crests are not the same, and the higher the amplitude of the wave, the greater the difference between them.

While the amplitude corresponds to the position of the particle in space, the wavelength is related to the momentum of the particle, that is, to the direction and speed of its movement. The greater the amplitude (the more precisely one can localize the particle in space), the more uncertain the wavelength becomes (the less one can say about the momentum of the particle).

If we can determine the position of a particle with the utmost precision, it will have no definite momentum at all. Moreover, its length is not constant – the distances between neighboring crests are not the same, and the higher the amplitude of the wave, the greater the difference between them.

While the amplitude corresponds to the position of the particle in space, the wavelength is related to the momentum of the particle, that is, to the direction and speed of its movement. The greater the amplitude (the more precisely one can localize the particle in space), the more uncertain the wavelength becomes (the less one can say about the momentum of the particle).

If we can determine the position of a particle with the utmost precision, it will have no definite momentum at all. Moreover, its length is not constant – the distances between neighboring crests are not the same, and the higher the amplitude of the wave, the greater the difference between them.

While the amplitude corresponds to the position of the particle in space, the wavelength is related to the momentum of the particle, that is, to the direction and speed of its movement. The greater the amplitude (the more precisely one can localize the particle in space), the more uncertain the wavelength becomes (the less one can say about the momentum of the particle).

If we can determine the position of a particle with the utmost precision, it will have no definite momentum at all. The greater the amplitude (the more precisely one can localize the particle in space), the more uncertain the wavelength becomes (the less one can say about the momentum of the particle). If we can determine the position of a particle with the utmost precision, it will have no definite momentum at all.

The greater the amplitude (the more precisely one can localize the particle in space), the more uncertain the wavelength becomes (the less one can say about the momentum of the particle). If we can determine the position of a particle with the utmost precision, it will have no definite momentum at all.

This fundamental property is mathematically derived from the properties of the wave and is called the uncertainty principle. The principle also applies to other characteristics of elementary particles. Another such interconnected pair is the energy and time of quantum processes.

The faster the process goes, the more uncertain is the amount of energy involved in it, and vice versa – it is possible to accurately characterize the energy only for a process of sufficient duration.

So, we understood: nothing definite can be said about the particle. It moves there, or not there, or rather, neither here nor there. Its characteristics are such or such, or rather, not such, and not such. It is here, but it may be there, or it may not be anywhere. So does it exist at all?

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