The basic methods of Quantum Physics being primarily mathematical, after this particular field of science gained steam there ensued a tide of discussion (or maybe let’s say enraged argument) over which exactly should the maths mean in terms of reality — what exactly Quantum Physics implies that sub-atomics are. My meagre knowledge of the whole issue seems to indicate that the most established idea of the problem is the so-called Copenhagen interpretation, which in the worst translation possible is this thing that says that a given particle is at the same time there and not there, that the cat is at the same time 37.0945% dead and 62.9055% not dead. So that you can stop reading now: What follows is a take on the issue by someone who does not understand Quantum Physics, nor the mathematics that underlie it and furthermore is a collection of ideas that arose while reading Terrence McKenna’s book that besides Quantum Physics also deals with psychedelic drugs, aliens and the I-Ching. So.
When we say that in Q.P. matter is at the same time wave and particle, we are actually talking about something that is so small that for all purposes there is a barrier between that and us so big as for example between us and other galaxies. The instruments that we use to measure subatomic particles are so complex and complicated as big telescopes, maybe more. A physicist might some times be inclined to say that although the implementation is complex the thing itself is not, that the principles could be explained to a schoolchild. Lie.
It is conceivable that the data we extract from large telescopes about other galaxies is not reliable. We don’t know. It probably isn’t by much, we are probably able to reliably measure most of the distortion. But. But we will not be going to those distant galaxies so soon, if they are not like we think they are it wouldn’t make any difference. There are those physical theories, true, but it is conceivable that for distances so mind-boggling big as that between galaxies there might be differences in the very physical substrata of reality that we can’t even imagine. Reality could work differently there and we would never ever know.
The very idea of reality might be insane in the next galaxy and we would never guess.
In the same vein, it is conceivable that when we are dealing with things as small as sub-atomic particles — you have to grasp negative exponents before you can even talk about such stuff, and really forming a picture of that in your head is probably something that requires some deep involvement with chemistry — it is not too wacky to argue that anything that small would not conform to our mammalian ideas of what reality is. Actually this point is moot, by now it is probably much more difficult to propose a sub-atomic model that conforms with the day-to-day experience of materiality than otherwise.
Ol Korrect, so when we say that sub-particles are «part wave» it is necessary to have in mind what we are talking about. We are saying that it is possible to describe and/or predict their behaviour through mathematical techniques created to model the behaviour of water and liquids.
Which is pretty fun, too, if you think about it, for «waves» in mathematical parlance are things that do not behave as waves. Real waves, the ones you can get in the sea, they move. The water is carried around by the wind. If you are in the water you will be pushed around. But in physics and maths, when we talk about waves we mean things that do not move, but rather fluctuate, go up and down in place, just changing potential.
So what happens is that this darn crafty man called Whatever-Maxwell (i have wikipediaed him, actually, but i find it funny that he is only known by physicists and Einstein and Newton are famous…), well he created the so-called Maxwell Equations, a set of mathematical tools that allows physicists to understand how electricity works, both when running through cables and when travelling around the space in the form of so-called radio waves. This work/idea, arguably one of the most brilliant in all of physics — maybe even all of human knowledge, revolutionized everything and gave way to loads and loads of technologies. It was powerful. And one of the things it did that few had done before was stop dealing with things — positions, sizes, formats — and used the mathematics of waves to describe things. Worked. Worked a lot. It was the original «unification»!!
This does not mean that radiation is like ocean waves. But there are parallels in their behaviours and we got used to saying that electromagnetism behaves like waves. It does not. Electromagnetism behaves like electromagnetism.
But one of the things about electromagnetism is that it does not work only on one place, but instead goes in all directions. All of ’em. At the same time. And that is actually hard to grasp: Our mammalian brains are not very well tuned to this kind of stuff. But the mathematics of waves is.
As it turns out, this kind of mathematics was also useful for very very small things. But not enough. What was good about it was that instead of dealing with things that are in one place, like a small ball, it allowed physicists to deal with sub-particles as these less well-defined, less constrained thinguies, things that do not exist tightly packed but instead are kind like spread in space, not hard stuff but cloud-like. A thing that gets diluted at the edges, that actually does not have edges but instead goes from being to non-being gradually.
Either that or it is impossible to build lens-like equipment precise enough to allow us to actually measure what is going on. But that is not important, what is important is that: Either way, it wouldn’t make any difference. In any way that we can sense, both ideas would amount to the same.
When i was a kid i used to draw those comics where a grain of sand was like a whole planet, full of cities and stuff. Maybe an electron around a nucleus is like a planet around a sun. Probably not. But it is acceptable that if it is the case we would never know.
So, back, wave-maths was useful to sub-particle physics, but still not enough. So some guy started using this thing that is a kind of a wave of a wave, it is also a three-dimensional thing that flows in all directions, but instead of being a map of the thing it is a map of the probability of the thing.
So what cooked the noodles of everyone is that we could read this maths as saying that a given particle at the same time was and was not at a given place or in a given state. And thus the 37.0945% dead cat.
But again that might be trying to apply our common-sense to stuff that is not common to us. It might be anthropomorphism of particles.
It is equally acceptable to say that at such small dimensions existence itself begins to get blurry. That the words we have for existence are not adequate to talk about what is going on there.
Basically, both particle and wave are conceived as subsets of this other kind-of-stuff. For lack of a better name, i will call this stuffness Nhandu. A nhandu, when looked from behind, looks like a wave. When looked from upside, it looks like a particle. But from close up it is a distribution of being → to be is something it does not do, it is a behaviour that it just displays some of the times.
Looked from afar — which is how we must do, because we are always dealing with it in the past and therefore at a temporal distance which is as much distance as a spatial distance — we can not discern the true behaviour of the nhandu. So it does not make sense to say that “it is” or “it is not”, but instead we must talk about what we detect of it. The «collapsing» of the nhandu never happens, it never starts being a thing and degrades from all it’s nhandu-al weirdness. The perception of it as a simple thing with definite properties just happens because we are looking at it in the past, just as much as we are looking at distant galaxies as they were millions of years ago.