In quantum physics, what is the difference between a particle and a wave?

Question by answerdancer: In quantum physics, what is the difference between a particle and a wave?
I’d like a definition of a particle and a definition of a wave and an explanation of their similarities and of their differences. I would mainly like to know how there can be a wave so small. What could cause such a wave and what medium could such a wave be in? I have a theory that quanta are neither particles nor waves and that they merely resemble particles or waves depending upon how we look at them, but I do not know what else they could be.

Best answer:

Answer by onoscity
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_quantum_mechanics
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_quantum_mechanics

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Argonne’s CARIBU charge breeder breaks world record for efficiency

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Engineer Richard Vondrasek installs a new turbo pump on the Californium Rare Isotope Breeder Upgrade (CARIBU). CARIBU reached world record efficiencies for ionization efficiency of solids.

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3 Responses to In quantum physics, what is the difference between a particle and a wave?

  1. Loewe September 12, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    “…they merely resemble particles or waves depending upon how we look at them”

    Leaving out the word “merely,” your statement outlines the same concept as found in the so-called ‘Copenhagen Interpretation’ concerning wave-particle duality. You are right. It all has to do with the way in which the experiment is set up.

    Set up an experiment to measure wave-length, for example, and you’ll ‘see’ waves. Set up an experiment to verify the photo-electric effect, and you’ll ‘see’ particles.

    Niels Bohr once said of this conundrum something along the lines of: If you think you understand it, you obviously haven’t the first clue!

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  2. epidavros September 12, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    In the standard model of quantum mechanics (which includes everything except gravity) the world is modelled as consisting of particles whose behaviour is described by waves.

    These fundamental particles are all point particles – they have no size. Some familiar particles like protons are not fundamental but made of smaller particles (in this case quarks) which are treated as points.

    The wave function describes the time evolution of the state of the particle. It is a superposition of mathematical waves, and the amplitude of each of these waves is treated as the probability at a given time of the particle being in a given state.

    String theory replaces these point particles by 1 dimensional strings, but has not had any experimental success yet.

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  3. runningman022003 September 12, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    A simple anology is to put a round cylinder on an overhead projector….

    If it is standing up, it appears to be a circle…
    If it is on it’s side, it appears to be a rectangle…

    The cylinder is neither of these, but depending on the experiment, it appears to be one or the other.

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