Manual Reconstruction of Wave-Particle Duality and its Implications for General Chemistry Textbooks

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Amy Cutter-Mackenzie. Merlin B. Cheng C. Sharlene Chadwick. Peter Grootenboer. Garth Stahl. Bruce Johnson. Maggie Hartnett. Stephen Billett. Elaine Khoo. Tony Loughland. Susan Lovett. Esther Sui-Chu Ho. Sabrina Leone. Tara Brabazon. Reis Monteiro. Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. Free delivery worldwide. The same question can be extended to all particles of matter—elementary particles, as well as compound molecules—asking about their true physical nature.

At our present state of knowledge, such questions about the true nature of things do not have conclusive answers. All we can say is that wave-particle duality exists in nature: Under some experimental conditions, a particle appears to act as a particle, and under different experimental conditions, a particle appears to act a wave.

Conversely, under some physical circumstances electromagnetic radiation acts as a wave, and under other physical circumstances, radiation acts as a beam of photons. This dualistic interpretation is not a new physics concept brought about by specific discoveries in the twentieth century. It was already present in a debate between Isaac Newton and Christiaan Huygens about the nature of light, beginning in the year According to Newton, a beam of light is a collection of corpuscles of light. According to Huygens, light is a wave.

The corpuscular hypothesis failed in , when Thomas Young announced his double-slit interference experiment with light see Figure , which firmly established light as a wave. Two waves are generated at the positions of two slits in an opaque screen. The waves have the same wavelengths. They travel from their origins at the slits to the viewing screen placed to the right of the slits.

The waves meet on the viewing screen. For light, this mechanism creates a bright-and-dark fringe pattern on the viewing screen. A similar dichotomy existed in the interpretation of electricity. Within this theory of electric fluid, the present theory of electric circuits was developed, and electromagnetism and electromagnetic induction were discovered.

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This discovery changed the way in which electricity is understood today and gave the electron its particle status. Likewise, in the Compton scattering of X-rays on electrons, the electron is a particle. On the other hand, in electron-scattering experiments on crystalline structures, the electron behaves as a wave. A skeptic may raise a question that perhaps an electron might always be nothing more than a particle, and that the diffraction images obtained in electron-scattering experiments might be explained within some macroscopic model of a crystal and a macroscopic model of electrons coming at it like a rain of ping-pong balls.

As a matter of fact, to investigate this question, we do not need a complex model of a crystal but just a couple of simple slits in a screen that is opaque to electrons. In other words, to gather convincing evidence about the nature of an electron, we need to repeat the Young double-slit experiment with electrons. If the electron is a wave, we should observe the formation of interference patterns typical for waves, such as those described in Figure , even when electrons come through the slits one by one.

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