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The Nature of Reality

The Good Vibrations of Quantum Field Theories

5 Aug 2013, 10:03 UTC
The Good Vibrations of Quantum Field Theories
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What we think of as a particle is simply a vibration of its associated field.

It’s not unusual for me to receive mail questioning quantum mechanics and special relativity. I’ll admit, these ideas can sound a bit crazy. For some people, these ideas are simply too counterintuitive to accept. Occasionally, I can convince a correspondent that they accurately describe the universe. But I have some bad news for my pen pals: physicists no longer think about the universe in these simple terms. Our experiments have long shown the subatomic realm to be far more mind-blowing than those modestly-perplexing ideas. It has been nearly a century after all. In the words of my teenage daughter, those ideas are soooooooo 1920s.
Quantum mechanics tells us that an electron is both a particle and a wave and you can never be certain what it will do. Relativity tells us that clocks aren’t absolute, distances depend on the observer, and that energy can be converted into matter and back again. These ideas are still correct, but they’re just the tip of the iceberg.
Physicists now use a class of theories called quantum field theories, or QFTs, which were first postulated in the late 1920s ...

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