Quantum Why

Quantum phenomena is disconcerting to think about because they are so counterintuitive to our everyday way of thinking about the world around us.

I have a background in radio. I obtained my first class radio telephone operators license in my junior year of high school. I operated pirate radio stations during junior high and high school. We had a radio station in our high school that I participated in.

As a result of my background in radio, I am familiar with the subject of electromagnetic radiation, antennas, polarization, the geometric relationship between the electrostatic field, the electromagnetic field, and the direction of propagation.

At radio frequencies the packet or particle nature of light does not make it’s presence felt to any significant degree. Quite different than say at gamma wavelengths where the particle nature of light seems to predominate.

We generate these radio waves, with “electronics”. And just what are electronics? They are devices that utilize and manipulate the motions of electrons.

It is the motion of electrons, charge carriers, in a material (metal conductor of some sort) that creates a magnetic field, and the oscillation of those electrons back and forth creates an oscillating magnetic field, and also the moving charges in the conductor setup an electrostatic field, and between the two which both radiate away from the conductor (antenna) we have electromagnetic radiation.

But those moving electrons in a conductor, they are valence electrons that are relatively free to move, but what about electrons bound more tightly in orbits, they are weird.

If moving oscillating free electrons in a conductor generate a radio wave, then why don’t electrons orbiting an atom create electromagnetic radiation, they are a charge moving in free space right?

Neils Bohr addressed this issue nearly a century ago. All matter has a wave nature to it, including electrons. Electrons, like photons, and all other particles, can be made to interfere with themselves proving a wave nature.

The “orbit” of an electron around an atom has to be an integral multiple of it’s wavelength. This means that the orbit can not decay slowly radiating electromagnetic energy away as it does so. So then it is possible to have this moving charge orbiting an atom and not radiating which seems to defy everything I had come to learn about electromagnetism.

This gets back to viewing the electron as a particle. If viewed instead as a standing wave, then the charge really isn’t moving, it’s just a standing wave distributed about the the atoms nucleus.

At the same time though it does act like a particle, the angular momentum, the energy associated with it, does act as it would for a particle orbiting an atom and the velocity one would expect given the distances, the mass of the particles, and the electrostatic attraction between the nucleus and the electron.

The nature of the wave is odd too, the wave is a probability of a particle being in any one place. So if you send electrons through two slits and they then project onto a fluorescent target, you will see a wave interference pattern which manifests in terms of the probability of an electron striking the target at a given location.

It all seems so odd. I can’t help but think of Einsteins statement, “God does not play dice”, and yet, it would seem at times that God not only plays dice but is obsessed with them.

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