Wave–particle duality

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Wave–particle duality postulates that all matter exhibits both wave and particle properties. A central concept of quantum mechanics, this duality addresses the inability of classical concepts like "particle" and "wave" to fully describe the behavior of quantum-scale objects. Standard interpretations of quantum mechanics explain this ostensible paradox as a fundamental property of the Universe, while alternative interpretations explain the duality as an emergent, second-order consequence of various limitations of the observer. This treatment focuses on explaining the behavior from the perspective of the widely used Copenhagen interpretation, in which wave–particle duality is one aspect of the concept of complementarity, that a phenomenon can be viewed in one way or in another, but not both simultaneously.

The idea of duality originated in a debate over the nature of light and matter that dates back to the 17th century, when competing theories of light were proposed by Christiaan Huygens and Isaac Newton: light was thought either to consist of waves (Huygens) or of corpuscles [particles] (Newton). Through the work of Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Louis de Broglie, Arthur Compton, Niels Bohr, and many others, current scientific theory holds that all particles also have a wave nature (and vice versa).[1] This phenomenon has been verified not only for elementary particles, but also for compound particles like atoms and even molecules. In fact, according to traditional formulations of non-relativistic quantum mechanics, wave–particle duality applies to all objects, even macroscopic ones; but because of their small wavelengths, the wave properties of macroscopic objects cannot be detected.[2]


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