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Posted by Richard Ruquist on October 25, 2001 15:04:50 UTC

Within the approximation of gauge theory, we can calculate exactly what the position and intensity of an electromagnetic wave is. What we cannot do is calculate exactly what would be measured if the wave were detected. Waves only become visible through detection. Photons are visible and the uncertainty relations apply to photons, not to waves. But in my opinion, and now we are in the realm of interpretation of quantum events, photons do not exist until we try to detect the EM waves.

Em waves do not automatically bunch up into wave packets that have uncertainty in position and intensity. Solve the simplest laser propagation problem and in the far field, the em waves are spherical and extend entirely across the beam with diffraction at its edges. There is no bunching in the direction of propagation or across the beam. Yet that beam could propagate so far and become so weak by the inverse r squared rule, that enough energy to make one photon requires collection over a relatively large period of time. If we had an array of detectors that extended in 2-d across the entire beam, photons, one at a time, would be detected with equal probability at any point(or detector) in the beam.

Yet the em waves are clearly not bunched to begin with. Effective bunching only occurs in the measurement process. It's really not bunching at all. It just takes a finite, non-zero amount of time for any detector to accumulate enough energy to trigger one quantum event. Scientists then say that the location of the photon in the beam is only known with an uncertainty given by the measurement time. But my opinion or interpretation is that photons do not exist in the beam. They are simply a conceptual approximation of what happens in the measurement process.

I believe the same is true for all particles. They only act like particles when they interact with the environment. In between they are waves and can be calculated exactly, presuming that we know the math like we do for em waves. But they are invisible to us as all that we can experience is the quantum interaction of the waves with their environment

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