The droplets-particle move in a circle. Image is taken from here.

Quantum physics for children

After many years of trying this and that, I picked a point a view that allowed me somehow to “resolve” the contradictions and make peace with quantum strangeness. I decided that the fact the quantum theory works proves that we “understand” it.

But a few months ago I suddenly bumped into the experiment that demos similar effects in our macro world. Here is the article and here is the video. Quote:

In the above video, a bath of silicone oil is vibrated at high frequency using a speaker. Thanks to the standing waves created by the speaker, droplets of oil liberated from the bulk of the liquid can then bounce indefinitely on the surface.

The waves created by the droplet’s bouncing interact with the droplet on its next bounce, giving the particle the ability to move at a certain range of speeds…. The amazing thing about this setup is that it closely mirrors the behaviors of electrons in quantum experiments. When confined to a circular pen, the droplet tends to hang out in certain concentric rings of the area, mimicking the quantized wave function of the electron.

The double-slit experiment, which is commonly taken as evidence that even a single particle of matter behaves as a diffuse wave, also has a parallel — and one that doesn’t require the droplet to be in two places at once. Instead, the droplet passes through one slit or the other, but the waves generated by its prior bounces pass through both. It’s the interaction of these two wave sets that guide the droplet’s motion and cause it to create interference-pattern-like behavior at the detector.”

How about that?! You will enjoy the video, I guarantee. The experiment, by the way, was first set by Yves Couder and his colleagues in 2010.

That’s how the droplets (and quantum particles?) get connected! It is the participatory universe of John Wheeler in action! It is just a miracle explained in terms of classical mechanics.

The most interesting part is that de Broglie in 1924 proposed a pilot-wave model (and Schroedinger used it for his wave mechanics development), but the founding fathers of quantum mechanics convinced de Broglie that his model is wrong and he abandoned the research. In 1952, Bohm came to the same idea independently but did not get many followers. Only recently it came back in the spotlight and this experiment demonstrated how the pilot wave may look like.

It’s too early to talk about de Broglie-Bohm theory being proved. The pilot wave still has to be found moving in the quantum world. Maybe it is the vacuum itself that carries. We know it is “not empty” and bubbling (because of the Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle) with short-lived virtual particles. And the dark (undetectable) dark matter is there, and the dark energy — both are the hypothesis, so far. Maybe the particle accelerator in Bern will bring up more underlying structure after it will be brought up to the higher energy range.

Anyway, quantum physics is not strange in my view anymore because we can see similar effects in our macro world. If we routinely performed silicone experiments, we would never call quantum effects strange.

That’s it. We can now relax and stop trying to be smart insisting on the correctness of our interpretation of quantum effects based on our faith only.

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Nick Samoylov

Nick Samoylov

Born in Moscow, lived in Crimea, now lives in the US. Used to be physicist and rock climber, now programmer and writer.