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Thread: The Double Slit Experiment and Its Implications

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    The Double Slit Experiment and Its Implications

    What is the double slit experiment ? Well it all started as a thought experiment (that is usually a theoretical experiment, that cannot actually be done YET, but from the theory you can derive what would happen if you did it, which often helps you to understand the theory and its implications better) in 1803, trying to figure out a hotly discussed topic : is light a wave or a particle ? Once the technical problems where solved it was done, and had such strange results that was done again and again in literally hundreds of different variations by many of our greatest minds, and yet we still don´t fully understand it.
    Sounds complicated ? Well yes and no. I can explain the basics to a child, while all the finer details can confuse even noble prize winners ^^ Ok, let have a look at the basics :
    You have a source of light, and let the light travel to a piece of paper. In between you do have something that blocks the way of the light, but has 2 small holes through which the light can go through. What should happen now? Well lets imagine you do that with marbles. What happens is that you get 2 heaps of marbles, one after each hole, since the marblke either gets through one hole or the other one. But what happens when you send a wave through that ? Lets imagine water waves. They travel through the holes, and after the holes they will spread out again, so these waves will form a pattern when they intersect. Lets first look at a wave :

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedi.../e/e9/Wave.png

    You see that the wave consist of a peak, goes down, hits average water level, gets further down, and then hits the lowest point of the wave trough, at which point it travels up again. So when 2 waves a+b meet each other, you have basically 3 possible ways how that happens :
    1. Wavepeak meets wavepeak --> the wave gets reinforced--> higher peak
    2. wavepeak meets wavetrough--> the wave flattens
    3. wavetrough meets wavetrough--> the wave gets reinforced--> lower trough

    So what you get is peak->flat->trough->flat, so again a wave, just stronger then just one wave.

    Now lets look what happens when you have just one slit open. Easy enough, with marbles you get one heap, with waves you get again a wave pattern.

    Now lets have a look what happens when you send light through. If light is a particle, we should get a marble result, if its a wave a wave result, right ?
    What would you think would happen with 1 slit open ? I tell you, you get a marble result.
    Well now what happens when you di it again with 2 slits open ? Stupid question isn´t it ? We have established light behaves like marbles, so of course we should get 2 heaps, 1 behind each slit.
    The gag of this experiment is that this is not what happens, we get a wave result.

    But how can this be ? That would mean light behaves depending on the situation either like a particle or like a wave. Its even stranger, it behaves often like both. Here a picture of an actual result of a double slit experiment (with a little sketch to the right) :

    http://startswithabang.com/wp-conten...8/12/img21.png

    You notice the wavelike pattern of stripes (the bright parts are peaks and troughs, the dark parts is the flat part), but if you look closely you see that the stripes consist of many little dots where the particles hit the screen.

    Now that opens a few questions :

    1. lets say particle A travels through slit 1. How does it "know" how to behave ? Lets rememner, if only 1 slit is open it will not react like a wave, and spread out, forming a wavepattern, but travel straight like a particle. How can it know if the other slit is open ?

    2. When is this "decision" made ?

    Let us start with just those 2. This time we do a little variation : each slit contains a particle detector, so we know where a particle is sent through. I want you now to think a bit what the result could be. Take a minute and guess. What results will the particle detector give ?
    Instead of showing us a result, this detector changes the whole result. Our wave pattern disappears, and we get 2 heaps instead. As soon as we turn the detector off, we get again a wave pattern :


    http://dontdrinkbeer.files.wordpress...9991908991.jpg


    Ok, there must be some way around this. Lets move the detector a bit before the slits---> again we get a wave pattern all the time.

    Now we trick them, we move the detectors behind the slits. Now the waves can go through the slits, and way behind them we have a look where the particles go through. Again i want you to guess what happens. We should have a wave pattern now right ? After all nothing disturbs them going through the slits, and those little buggers can´t know about out little trick with the detectors, right ? Well, no. Apparently the particles "know" we are going to detect them and go through either slit instead of both and form the wavepattern.


    Ok, if they want to outsmart us we have to get out the big guns. Let us send them through one by one. Now the particle can either choose a slit, or it forms a wave and go through both. This time we should find out what those little buggers do exactly. They have tricked us for the last time.....................or not. Without a detector the particle travels through both slits and forms a wave pattern with itself. As soon as we have detectors show us where they go, to see how they do that, they don´t form a wavepattern. It seems they are shy and don´t want us to find out ^^ No that would be silly, but fact is, as soon as we observe them with any means whatsoever, they change their behaviour.
    No matter how creative we got, it was every time the same thing : as soon as you observe the particles with any means they change their behaviour. There have been hundreds of different variations of this, and we still have not the slightest clue how this little buggers do what they do, since they stop doing it when we start observing it.
    There won't be humans in 500 years. Enough people choke themselves when they jerk off we gave it a name. We ain't a species made to last.

    Judging by it´s name common sense must once have been a pretty common thing. When and why did that change, so it became the rare treasure it is today???

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    Senior Member Feyn's Avatar
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    Ok photons, if you don´t behave, and try to play silly buggers with us, we simply ignore you. I mean we have lots of other particles, its not like we depend on you ! Well ok, technically we do if we want to see something at all^^
    Let´s see. How about electrons ? Electrons are particles, right ? We all learned that in school. Electrons are also easy to produce, and its also pretty easy to send a single electron at a time. Wanna guess again what happens ? By now you should know better, i guess ^^ Exactly like the photon the electron shows both wave and particle behaviour. No matter what you do, you get the exact same problems. The same goes for any other particle. So basically we are fucked, right ? WAIT ! How about an atom ? An atom has to be stable, that can´t just wave around, or can it ? It can ^^ So can molecules. The biggest molecules this was actually done with are bucky balls. A bucky ball looks like a football, made of 60 carbon atoms :

    http://www.ozpod.com/zome/ball.gif

    Theoretically even big things like humans show this behaviour, but the bigger the object, the smaller the wavelenght. So with big objects the wavelenght is so small it is practically zero.

    Now here a few links on variations of this experiment :

    http://www.doubleslitexperiment.com/

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bgnuib0z0vI (8 part video series on it)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheeler...ice_experiment

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afshar_experiment

    http://physics.stackexchange.com/que...quantum-eraser


    I want to give 1 variation a closer look, since it takes this thing into absurdity, or better shows how absurd nature apparently behaves here.


    Quantum Eraser


    What happens if we detect the particles after the slit, but then do something so the result of the detector does not tell us through which slit the particle went ? So get this right, first we detect the particle, but we do not look at the results, then somehow obscure the results (how exactly this could be done is not important here, suffice to say its possible, if you need to know PM me).

    Well since we do no know through which slot the particle travels, we see again a wave pattern. So it is not the fact that we detect the particle, that destroys the wave pattern. It is us knowing the result that destroys it. So the sole fact that we observe something changes it !
    There won't be humans in 500 years. Enough people choke themselves when they jerk off we gave it a name. We ain't a species made to last.

    Judging by it´s name common sense must once have been a pretty common thing. When and why did that change, so it became the rare treasure it is today???

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    Senior Member Feyn's Avatar
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    Lets get a bit philosophical now. There is an old question: if a tree falls, and nobody observes this, does it still make a sound ? Many thought this one to be a bit silly, but now that we know about the double slit experiment we know it has real implications on reality. Observers change reality. That also gives us a worrying problem with huge implications. Does science really show us how nature behaves, or does it only show us how it behaves when we observe it, and when there is no observer it behaves differently ?
    This seems to be quite troubeling, but it goes even further then that, MUCH FURTHER ! Are things only how we see them as long as we observe them ? What about the beginning of the universe ? As long as particles show this wavelike pattern can they even form bigger objects ? It seems unlikely. So who observed them at this time, since they obviously formed big objects like stars quite quick. The double slit experiment seems to suggest(though I freely admit that there is much discussion on this) that this observer needs to be sentient (quick reminder, if the particle detector observed them it did not change things, only once we got the results it changed) :

    http://i.qkme.me/26nz.jpg
    There won't be humans in 500 years. Enough people choke themselves when they jerk off we gave it a name. We ain't a species made to last.

    Judging by it´s name common sense must once have been a pretty common thing. When and why did that change, so it became the rare treasure it is today???

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    What I wondered about as a child is that the night is dark.

    When you have a flashlight directed at an obstacle the light is going around. So you would see the light right behind the obstacle passing by. but on Earth you do not see the sunlight passing by, it is pitchblack when there is no moon.

    And you should see the light when they are waves or particles. As you can see it with a flashlight passing an obstacle.
    weel nich will dieken dej mot wieken

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    Senior Member Feyn's Avatar
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    Well i can explain that to you if you want. How detailed and scientific do you want to know it ? The short explanation is simple diffusion. Would you still see the light say 500 meter further ? 5000 meter further ? Another part of the explanation is point of view. If you are a few hundred kilometers above earth you would see the light passing, but you are ON earth. Lets say you have the eyes 5 mm from the obstacle away facing the obstacle. Would you still see the light passing ? Not really.
    Since we talk about light, what really fascinates me are modern light collectors aka telescopes. They are so good nowadays that if you would put a candle on top of the left behind apollo module on the moon, earthbound telescopes could register the increase in brightness of the moon due to this little light from 300.000 km away. That´s what i call exact calibration ^^ Modern physics produces machines with phantastic abilities, especially accuracy of measurement.
    There won't be humans in 500 years. Enough people choke themselves when they jerk off we gave it a name. We ain't a species made to last.

    Judging by it´s name common sense must once have been a pretty common thing. When and why did that change, so it became the rare treasure it is today???

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    Senior Member velvet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feyn
    Lets get a bit philosophical now. There is an old question: if a tree falls, and nobody observes this, does it still make a sound ?
    Yes


    Quote Originally Posted by Feyn
    Many thought this one to be a bit silly, but now that we know about the double slit experiment we know it has real implications on reality. Observers change reality. That also gives us a worrying problem with huge implications. Does science really show us how nature behaves, or does it only show us how it behaves when we observe it, and when there is no observer it behaves differently ?
    This seems to be quite troubeling, but it goes even further then that, MUCH FURTHER ! Are things only how we see them as long as we observe them ? What about the beginning of the universe ? As long as particles show this wavelike pattern can they even form bigger objects ?
    The whole experiment (and Quantum Mechanic in general) is about "elementary particles", everything that is either light or electromagnetic radiation, both groups of "particles" that possess no "rest mass". They did never form any objects to begin with.

    So the philosophical questions you pose are quite pointless when you apply them to particles with mass, ie the particles that do form objects. They are not the same, they dont behave the same way, they dont listen to the same laws, and they dont do the same things.

    I will agree that QM, the wave-particle duality and the stuff is endlessly interesting and fascinating, but they only apply to a specific group of particles, not to all


    In addition, the photon of the experiment is artifically created and then split through a prisma. The two are twins, so they will behave absolutely identical. Seeing the experiment setting, it shows clear differences in the distance the photon has to go to the different detectors. This could unintentionally manipulate the outcome. Specially since the original setting explained quite in detail that the space between the slits is roughly the same as the natural wave length of the photon. So sending them over different distances will quite predictable, with or without mirrors, prismas or information-erasers inbetween, result in either an interference or not, since this is a simple result of waves either "meeting" (even if going by the same speed into the same direction) to level out their troughs or strengthening them. That's why huge ships have a second bow before their body-bow. Imho there's no big mystery there, just normal wave behavior.

    From the delayed quantum choice eraser experiment explanation on wiki:
    The positions where these "signal" photons detected by D0 occur can later be examined to discover if collectively those positions form an interference pattern.
    The interference pattern is actually not observed on the signal photon, it's math that concludes from the position of the two photons if an interference pattern had occured or not.


    But granted, that light, or all no rest mass possessing photons, electrons and stuff show both particle and wave behavior, despite them possessing no mass and should not behave like particles is still fascinating.
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    Senior Member Feyn's Avatar
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    Sorry velvet, I know my posts where quite long, but you should read them ALL. I clearly stated that the biggest object that has shown such wave/particle duality is a buckyball (at least its the biggest i know of). A buckyball is a massive molecule,consisting of SIXTY carbon atoms. So no, the philosophical questions are not the least bit pointless.
    Elementary particles are not only photons, i also mentioned electrons (which do have a restmass btw) +, then we have quarks (they are the little buggers that form protons and neutrons, which then again form the nucleus of the atom). QM applies to ALL particles, and even whole atoms and molecules, yes even things like you and me do have a wavelenght (granted its somewhere around the plankh scale, but its there). Here an article in a physics journal on buckyballs in the double slit :


    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2952



    I knew i shouldnt have included the really complex double slit experiments, they seem to have you confused a bit. Lets take it back a notch :

    If you do send a single particle through this experiment (in its very simplest form, just the double slit and a monitor) it will go through both slits and react with itself. You do not have to split anything to achieve that. That also happens when you send through a whole buckyball. Somehow it will go through both slits and interact with itself. I know your logic simply tries to deny that, since it seems totally illogical and gaga. Don´t worry, that happens even to physic noble prize winners. Richard Feynman said : nobody really understands quantum mechanics, you just have to learn to live with it without getting crazy.
    There won't be humans in 500 years. Enough people choke themselves when they jerk off we gave it a name. We ain't a species made to last.

    Judging by it´s name common sense must once have been a pretty common thing. When and why did that change, so it became the rare treasure it is today???

  8. #8
    Senior Member velvet's Avatar
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    I did read your posts, but I think you have some trouble to understand the nature of "buckyballs" (Buckminster Fullerene), their wave-particle duality is no longer present in a solid state, when they're compressed or dissoluted. Also it is indeed the largest "matter" that has ever shown wave-particle duality (15 orders of magnitude smaller than true macroscopic objects (15[10] 15 times 10x10x10 and so on)), so no, you and me do not show this.

    Your link tells about planned experiments with viruses (which are itself a rather mysterious "organism"), I'd be interested in the results, but I dare to predict that viruses, and other "normal-matter" atoms may not show wave-particle duality. Which the article also indicates, when it says:

    In the quest to establish when and how quantum mechanics breaks down and classical physics takes over, Arndt and co-workers plan to repeat their experiments with larger macromolecules and possibly even viruses
    All those particles that ever showed wave-particle duality and the mysterious interference pattern with itself (established too in the article that the pattern also appears when there is only one C60 molecule, so it interferes with itself) are still a special class of molecules/particles, ie not solid and x-orders of magnitude smaller than normal molecules/particles.

    In solid states only "classical" physics apply to them and the quantum mechanics behavior disappears. Solidity though is the precondition to form larger objects such as planets, and then QM is out of the picture, because the solid particles behave according to normal physical laws.

    It's still interesting why the particles behave they way they do, ie why they change their behavior when it is determineable which slit they went through. But imho there may be a super easy explanation for this once the QM laws are found.
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    Senior Member Feyn's Avatar
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    I think either we are talking about different things here, or we really need to define a few terms. I mean i am with you that the first matter to form the visible universe needed to "crystallize", the wave function needed to collapse, giving everything a location etc.

    The reason i mentioned buckyballs was because of this quote :
    "The whole experiment (and Quantum Mechanic in general) is about "elementary particles", everything that is either light or electromagnetic radiation, both groups of "particles" that possess no "rest mass". They did never form any objects to begin with."

    Buckyballs are objects, they do have rest mass. Atoms are objects, they do have rest mass. Yet they all show wave partical duality. So either you suddenly changed your opinion, or you need to explain more exactly what you mean.
    Perhaps this helps : You obviously cannot just walk through a wall (though you are welcome to try ^^), but why ? I mean if you look at matter at enough magnification you realize its mostly vacuum. An atom has a core, and a few (or a few more, depending on the atom) electrons circling it. If you have an atom the size of a football stadium, the core has the size of a peanut in the middle of the 50 yard line, and the electrons are even way way tinier. The rest is basically vacuum (well the vacuum is not exactly empty, but let´s leave virtual particles out of this, they cannot interact with matter anyway, so they are not important for this model). It gets even stranger, the core itself is also mostly vacuum, with a few quarks in it, that build the particles of the core.
    So why can´t we walk through walls ? Ever tried to get 2 minus poles of a magnet together ? If it is a really strong one, say a neodym magnet it will be impossible, and electrons are even stronger then that (well compared to size anyways). So the reason you cannot walk through walls is not that atoms are massive, its simple magnetic repulsion.

    Now what do you mean with special class of particles ? I assure you, it is possible with all particles, not just some, no matter if they are bosons or fermions. You seem to think they are somehow different then normal matter, but actually they are just this, normal, everyday matter.
    There won't be humans in 500 years. Enough people choke themselves when they jerk off we gave it a name. We ain't a species made to last.

    Judging by it´s name common sense must once have been a pretty common thing. When and why did that change, so it became the rare treasure it is today???

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    I haven't yet read up on this as much as I'd like, but I'd like to throw in a couple of (probably incorrect) ideas that occurred to me. This is completely rushed and un-proofread for the moment, but I'll come back to it later.

    There's long been a distinction in Western philosophy between being-for-others and being-in-itself. The distinction has been disputed (most notably by Nietzsche), but let's work with the idea. Being-for-others is a relational existence: it exists merely in the relationship between the observer and the observed. When unobserved, the being-for-others is pure potential. A table can be seen from a million different angles -- that's its potential as being-for-others. If it's viewed by one person from one angle, then that's a realisation of one of an untold number of possible manifestations of its being-for-others. If unseen by anyone, then all of the table's possible being-for-others are unrealised and exist merely as potential emanating from an unknowable being-in-itself (unknowable because we can only ever grasp a thing's being-for-others, since we are the 'others' for whom it exists).

    With that in mind, we might want to say that our perception affects a thing's being-for-others (i.e. the manifestation of either wave-like or particle-like behaviour), which philosophy has acknowledge for centuries, but in a way formerly unknown: not just to realise what was already there as potential as such, but to create a symbiotic relationship between the perceiver and the perceived. And maybe not only that, but maybe also to create an 'objective' change in the being-for-others for all perceivers (meaning that if a child walked into the room unaware of any of the implications of what he was seeing, he would still see the effects of the change that occurred for a perceiver other than himself).

    But at any rate, does this mean there's a change in the nature of the light, or a change in the nature of our perception of it? Does the light itself play games with us, or is it our perception of it that plays the games? Everything we know is mediated first by our senses and then by our reason. Do we know that neither of these 'filter' the results of what we see? Keep in mind that the human understanding evolved and accommodated itself to a certain plane of reality. We evolved in accordance to certain laws inherent to that plane. As such, when we encounter a different plane (such as the quantum plane) we find that nothing 'makes sense' to us. It's like trying to understand a game of tiddlywinks in terms of the rules of a break dancing competition. Evolution never prepared us for the laws of the quantum world because we never encountered it. When we try to understand it, paradoxes emerge. When we try to merge a portion of the quantum level with our own experiential realm, we bring that paradox into our direct experience. Can't, then, what we see here be the result of our own intellect trying desperately to process a paradox that, by its own laws, are impossible?

    Probably not. But I thought it was an interesting thought at least. I'll have to read up on this more.

    Edit:

    The short version: Our understanding depends on cause and effect. Quantum mechanics does not. Our understanding 'cheats' the results of quantum laws to resolve a paradox in its immediate perception.

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