Dr. Voroshilov: from A to Z A driven professional, an eloquent expert, a productive author, and a collaborative colleague: (Professional past, present, and future)
More posts are after the Foreword.
The other day I asked a professional physics researcher, an experimentalist, if he thinks that an electron is a wave or a particle. At first he said "it's a wave packet", then "I don't really care, I don't think about it, I know how to calculate what I need, that's all I need". These two responses represent the most common sentiments in the Western physics:1. An electron (and, of course, any other quantum particle) is a wave (in different forms, including a packet); or 2. It does not matter what it is, as long as the math works.
The latter approach treats quantum mechanics as a black box, i.e. we know inputs and outputs, it does not matter what's inside. The former approach is just one of the interpretations (my 30 - 50 year old textbooks have others). And I believe it is a wrong one. In every experiment an electron acts like a localized object, i.e. a particle (no matter how many times you would make a shot of billions of photons in a space where an electron travels through, the Compton scattering happens only here and now). Thinking about an electron as of an actual physical wave means using a hundred-year old idea that was presented at the time of the birth of quantum mechanics - to gain an understanding of what it does. But sticking to this idea hundred years later demonstrates misunderstanding of the fundamentals of quantum mechanics, including (but not limited to) "the wave-function collapse". Of course, if a physical wave existed in a large region of space and would suddenly concentrated in one single local point - that would look very unfamiliar for anyone who tried to apply to quantum mechanics ideas from the classical mechanics. But if an electron is a particle that is always localized, there is even no need for such an event as "a collapse". A statement that "a wave-function collapses" means only that physicists do not have an accurate mathematical description of the interactions between a quantum system and a classical one (an electron "flies" and Schrodinger equation describes it, then an electron hits a photo-plate - and "collapse" happens). The behavior of an electron is "magical" in some way, meaning, very different from a classical particle, and still not completely understood. But there is no need at all for keeping using outdated interpretation that only confuses public (hence, helps attracting public attention), but do not provide any significant insights into the fundamentals of quantum mechanics.
Foreword (from Killing The Schrodinger's Cat, at last and for good: part I).
My favorite paradox of such type is Zeno’s paradox that says that a runner cannot ever run a mile (the Dichotomy paradox). Now we know that the sum of an infinitely many terms can have a finite value.
In conclusion, we know that quantum mechanics is very different from classical mechanics, we know that we don’t know why a quantum theory works, and that realization leads to different theories about a quantum theory, known as interpretations. How do we select that one which we like the most? Everyone has a different approach. I always use the Occam's razor and select an explanation which requires the least amount of reasoning, the smallest number of assumptions, and the most natural assumptions.
Such interpretation of quantum mechanics exists. And in the series of post on this page I tried to offer a description of this interpretation and explain why this interpretation is the best one – so far.
The Core Assumption of Every Known Single Photon Experiment Is Wrong
This webpage offers some additional publications (old or short).
The links to all six my applications to the NSF 2026 Big Idea Machine (from August 31, 2018 to October 26, 2018):
1. Entry125253: High Frequency Data Streams in Education
2. Entry124656: objective measures of physics knowledge
3. Entry125317: National database teacher PD
4. Entry124655: role of NSF in funding education
NB. I was disqualified due to multiple entrees; evidently, the NSF Idea Machine has no need for an idea machine :)