Blog of Veikko M.O.T. Nyfors, Hybrid Quantum ICT consultant

Quantum Mechanics demystified, a try

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Atom’s reality

It is not very often that people make it questionable whether atoms are real or not. Well, I am going to do it here and now.

In article Being a particle wave-particle duality is described for photons. Conclusion being that photon never really exists as a particle. Only appearing for us humans a little bit as if they were. It is also mentioned there that duality shows up also for electrons, atoms and even to molecules up to a certain size.

In this article I am bringing more stance on the matter in case of atoms. Is it so, that also they become perceptible only in connection of interaction with other media? As if having been a particle.

According to quantum mechanics, an atom is not located at any specific location at a given time. Instead, a wavefunction gives the probability of finding the atom at a specific location if observed. Without the observation, we really can’t say the atom exists at any location.
I concur with that. Only that the observation doesn’t have to be an observation in the sense that a human or an animal would have to be there to see it. Rather it is so that an atom “shows up in some sense” when it interacts with other stuff. That is when atom gives some or all of the energy it is holding in it’s wave form (with it’s constituencies) to the other stuff it is interacting with.
When the other stuff happens to be a film of some kind reacting to incoming atoms, or rather photon energy of it’s electrons, then even people would be capable of seeing the outcome of this interaction, if they just happen to throw a glance on the film at some point later. We would see the lighter spots on the film as photons emitted from those spots and caught by our cone or rod cells. As described in Whats light.
Of course the above looks as if atom has been a particle hitting the detector at the point showing up on the film. But really it only was the atom’s wave energy released on that spot and film reacting on it, as it was the most probable location for the atom’s wave to get materialized. Atom not existing prior to interaction as anything else than just the energy in it’s wave. Not as any kind of particle.

It’s only that we humans tend to think in so very limited way, governed by our restricted senses. In case of vision, the only thing we can observe with our eyes are the photons with wavelength of visible light. We can’t see any atoms wave energy on the fly. We have to convert it in our detector to something that can later on be presented with photons of visible light. Like in the above scenario.
We really need to take our imagination and intuition into play. Like when we understood earth is orbiting sun and not vice versa. As it looked like with our confined comprehension.