Nature Loves to Hide: Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective

By Shimon Malin | Go to book overview

4

Waves of
Nothingness

Erwin Schrödinger's discovery of "wave mechanics" led to insights
concerning the nature of electrons and other subatomic entities. When left
alone, electrons are not "things." They do not actually exist in space and
time; their existence is merely potential. They emerge into momentary
actual existence by acts of measurement. Hence, unlike classical
measurements, quantum measurements are creative; they literally create
the entities that are measured.

... and nothing is
But what is not.

—W. Shakespeare


1. Schrödinger's Wave Mechanics

The University of Zurich was not a prominent center for theoretical physics during the I920s, but Erwin Schrödinger, who had occupied the chair of theoretical physics since 1922, kept abreast of the exciting new developments in the field. On November 23, 1925, he gave a colloquium talk on de Broglie's thesis—the suggestion that the wave-particle duality applies not only to light but also to electrons. Pieter Debye, a colleague of Schrödinger's who was in the audience, remarked that he thought that "this way of talking was rather childish ... to deal properly with waves one had to have a wave equation." A month later Schrödinger left for a Christmas vacation in the Alps. When he came back, he gave another lecture and started by saying, "My colleague Debye suggested that one should have a wave equation; well, I have found one." 1

Schrödinger was not bereft of a sense of humor. He knew that the equation he introduced so casually was one of the greatest discoveries of his time. Unlike Bohr and Heisenberg, who spent months and years in torturous search, Schrödinger's achievement was the result of a capacity for extreme concentration during a few crucial weeks of a creative thrust.

But what is a wave equation, and why do we need one?

A wave equation is a concise way of expressing, mathematically, how the shape of a wave changes from one moment to the next. Suppose we have "a wave func

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Nature Loves to Hide: Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Nature Loves to Hide *
  • Nature Loves to Hice - Quantum Physics and Reality, a Western Perspective *
  • Contents *
  • Acknowledgments *
  • Introduction *
  • Part One - The Quandary *
  • I - Mach's Shadow *
  • 2 - Einstein's Dilemma *
  • 3 - The Call of Complementarity *
  • 4 - Waves of Nothingness *
  • 5 - Paul Dirac and the Spin of the Electron *
  • 6 - An Irresistible Force Meets an Immovable Rock *
  • 7 - "Nature Loves to Hide" *
  • Part Two - From a Universe of Objects to a Universe of Experiences *
  • 8 - The Elusive Obvious *
  • 9 - Objectivation *
  • 10 - In and Out of Space and Time *
  • II - "Nature Makes a Choice" *
  • 12 - Nature Alive *
  • 13 - Flashes of Existence *
  • 14 - The Expression of Knowledge *
  • 15 - A Universe of Experience *
  • 16 - The Potential and the Actual *
  • Part Three - Physics and the One *
  • 17 - Levels of Being *
  • 18 - Our Place in the Universe *
  • 19 - Physics and the One *
  • ∼ Epilogue *
  • Appendices *
  • Notes *
  • Bibliography *
  • Index *
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