All Matter Particles?
Is all matter particles? That is to ask, is it
mathematically possible to have matter which
does not have a definitively formed point?
According to quantum physics, no matter has one definitively formed
point at which it must always exist. You can measure a position and say
that the particle appears to be there, but it is only an average
position, a most likely position.
With very small particles, like electrons, this uncertainty is
important. It is possible for electrons to pass through two holes at
the same time, provided you do not measure which hole it goes through.
When you measure a position, only one of the possible positions will
register. Any particle can act as if it has only one position, but only
when the measurement forces it. After measurement, the particle
"spreads out" again.
With very large objects, such as baseballs, this uncertainty is not
important. The baseball exists over a wide range of space, over many,
many atomic widths. Measuring a baseball does not select a single point.
You can say that it exists around a specific point, but not at a
specific point. If a baseball moves by the width of one hundred atoms,
nobody will know.
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
The branch of physics known as quantum mechanics explores the
non-particle nature of matter. It turns out a lot of phenomena can be
explained by thinking of matter as waves, rather than particles. The
answer to your question is yes, it is not only mathematically
possible, but also quite well-accepted that matter is not just a
collection of hard spheres the way traditional (Newtonian) physics
first treated it.
Hope this helps,
At the atomic/molecular (and smaller scale) the distinction between
"particle" and "wave" disappears.
This a hard concept to swallow, but the experimental data (not just somebody
thinking up some idea) require this dual behavior. On that size scale,
"point" loses its traditional definition. Then one has to talk about
probability of a "particle's" position -- and the harder you look to find
the particle's position the "squishier" the particle becomes. This is
probably the "classical" example of constructing a mathematical model,
following the consequences to their logical conclusion, and finding out that
the consequences are not intuitive. Beware of "common sense" and "
intuition" they can lead us down a slippery slope.
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Update: June 2012