Prime Eval, Part 8


When I took physics classes back in university in the early 80’s, my professors taught that photons were waves that act like particles, and electrons are particles that act like waves. The examples included scattering, interference patterns, etc. However, in QED, Richard Feynman came straight out and stated that photons are particles. Which is interesting to me, because QED hit print in ’85, and was based on stuff he’d been lecturing on for years. Presumably, my teachers should have had access to the same information Feynman had, and I would have been happier if they’d taught what he taught. Anyway, Feynman photons are particles, not waves.

The book QED presents a very simplified representation of the Feynman diagram.

Basically, an electron travels and at some point emits a photon which is then absorbed by another electron, or breaks down into a quark-antiquark pair. The Feynman diagram isn’t predictive – it doesn’t try to explain why electrons and photons behave in this way – it just uses probabilities integrated over a surface or volume to develop the math for what we observe matter doing in space-time. Then there’s the little problem of two neighboring electrons, where one absorbs the photon before the other one emits it…

To me, it’s almost like electrons and subatomic particles are bouncing around the boundaries of 4-D space, and occasionally making one right-angle turn too many before coming back to our 3-D reference frame. Maybe we could say that this behavior is what you get when you’re really close to the origin of the x-y-z axis and you keep dividing by 0 somewhere. This is all pointless speculation, but it could hint at the shape of 4-D space if we could build up enough cross-sections of the 3-D space around a specific particle.

One other interesting thing about the book QED is that it puts a different light on the Schrodinger’s Cat experiment. The Feynman Diagram represents a probability of an event. Different particles have different probabilities, and all possibilities can and will happen. But, some of them cancel each other out and what you have left is a group of particles doing something together on a macro scale, or one particle apparently doing two things at the same time when you try to measure it. I’ve always thought that the “probability” part came from not being able to predict the future, as when you roll a ball on a roulette wheel. There’s a probability that the ball will land on any given number, but the actual number can’t be known until the ball stops rolling. But, in Feynman’s view, each particle has an event probability that is based on time and/or distance traveled from a point source. We can’t know what the particle will do at any given moment until it actually does it. Bottom line is, what most people think they understand about Schrodinger’s Cat is wrong.

Funny enough, the inaugural volume of Motohiro’s manga Q.E.D. iff (2015) does get into something of a discussion of these exact same concepts, and goes into a short explanation of negative probabilities. Although the manga is still only in Japanese, I do recommend both the Feynman QED book and Q.E.D. iff for anyone that wants to learn more.

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