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A simple local realist interpretation of quantum physics


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Here's a view of quantum mechanics that I've been thinking about a bit in the past. I think it's easily powerful enough to be useful for others too. And to be honest, if you start viewing things through this interpretation, it can become a "bit" frustrating to see people over-complicate QM for themselves, and make it all seem more mysterious than it needs to be.

I have never heard anyone use this type of interpretation, so I presume it is somewhat novel approach - despite being so incredibly simple, and almost "too obvious to miss". And yes, I understand the gravity of the claim of solving Bell experiments with local realist model, but what can I say... There really doesn't seem to be any obstacles to that. Of course it is always possible that I'm overlooking something, but it's a bit hard to imagine what that might be, being that I'm basically just putting together concepts that already exist elsewhere in our physical models.

I typed my thoughts in Google Docs, and because I'm a bit lazy, here's just a link to a PDF export:

The Quantum Absorption interpretation:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/mv7a2tbzicobeyo/Simple local realist interpretation of quantum mechanics.pdf?dl=0



The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how all of Quantum Mechanics can be explained by the simple idea that electromagnetic energy propagates purely as waves, while matter can only absorb energy in discrete quantities. The limitation that matter can only absorb discrete quantities of energy is already assumed to be true in many models of modern physics. Thus the concept of “photons'' appears to be redundant. Assuming only absorption quanta instead of photon quanta can easily explain many otherwise mysterious aspects of Quantum theory. It explains the apparent probabilistic nature of Quantum mechanics. It explains the behavior of polarization filters. It explains the frequency dependence of electromagnetic energy. It explains “virtual particles” without any particles. It explains the seemingly implausible “photon“ detection correlations of Bell experiments without any photons, and thus it solves the original EPR paradox. It does all this within a deterministic local realist framework.

To summarize the argument in few key points:

Quantum of energy absorption from continuous wave energy would look identical to photon detections at low energy levels. Any unabsorbed excess energies would continue to exist as waves. That leads into constant low energy noise of wave energy across the universe, that is not directly observable but would still interfere with our experiments, making detection events appear probabilistic. Combining pure wave mechanics to the information transfer, and combining that with the probabilistic detection events, can trivially solve the entire mystery of wave-particle duality. For example, the expectation from Bell Experiments becomes purely cosine correlation between detection events - just as experiments show - even when the energy levels are low enough for detection events to occur sparsely.

Enjoy, discuss, let me know your thoughts.


Edited by AnssiH
Added abstract and a quick summary
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Thanks for the link, however it would be best to at least give an abstract and summary of your paper, along with the link so that a meaningful discussion can take place.

For example, I have recently been reading this paper, by W.E. Lamb, that seems to cover some of the same ground that you are attempting to cover, but in much greater detail. Not being lazy,☺️ I here provide the link, the abstract and the summary, but it is far more enlightening to read the entire paper.


W.E. Lamb, Jr.

Optical Sciences Center, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, USA

Received: 23 July 1994/Accepted: 18 September 1994



It should be apparent from the title of this article that the author does not like the use of the word "photon", which dates from 1926. In his view, there is no such thing as a photon. Only a comedy of errors and historical accidents led to its popularity among physicists and optical scientists. I admit that the word is short and convenient. Its use is also habit forming. Similarly, one might find it convenient to speak of the "aether" or "vacuum" to stand for empty space, even if no such thing existed.

There are very good substitute words for "photon", (e.g., "radiation" or "light"), and for "photonics" (e.g., "optics" or "quantum optics"). Similar objections are possible to use of the word "phonon", which dates from 1932. Objects like electrons, neutrinos of finite rest mass, or helium atoms can, under suitable conditions, be considered to be particles, since their theories then have viable non-relativistic and non-quantum limits. This paper outlines the main features of the quantum theory of radiation and indicates how they can be used to treat problems in quantum optics.


8 Winding down

There is a lot to talk about the wave-particle duality in discussion of quantum mechanics. This may be necessary for those who are unwilling or unable to acquire an understanding of the theory. However, this concept is even more pointlessly introduced in discussions of problems in the quantum theory or radiation. Here the normal mode waves of a purely classical electrodynamics appear, and for each normal mode there is an equivalent pseudosimple harmonic-oscillator particle which may then havea wave function whose argument is the corresponding normal-mode amplitude. Note that the particle is not a photon.

One might rather think of a multiplicity of two distinct wave concepts and a particle concept for each normal mode of the radiation field. However, such concepts are really not useful or appropriate. The "Complementarity Principle" and the notion of wave-particle duality were introduced by N. Bohr in 1927. They reflect the fact that he mostly dealt with theoretical and philosophical concepts, and left the detailed work to postdoctoral assistants. It is very likely that Bohr never, by himself, made a significant quantum-mechanical calculation after the formulation of quantum mechanics in 1925-1926.

9 Summary

It is high time to give up the use of the word "photon", and of a bad concept which will shortly be a century old. Radiation does not consist of particles, and the classical, i.e., non-quantum, limit of QTR is described by Maxwell's equations for the electromagnetic fields, which do not involve particles. Talking about radiation in terms of particles is like using such ubiquitous phrases as "You know" or "I mean" which are very much to be heard in some cultures. For a friend of Charlie Brown, it might serve as a kind of security blanket.

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16 hours ago, OceanBreeze said:

Thanks for the link, however it would be best to at least give an abstract and summary of your paper, along with the link so that a meaningful discussion can take place.

Yeah, good point. I momentarily overcame my laziness, improved the abstract, and copied it to the OP with a short summary 😊

16 hours ago, OceanBreeze said:

For example, I have recently been reading this paper, by W.E. Lamb, that seems to cover some of the same ground that you are attempting to cover, but in much greater detail. Not being lazy,☺️ I here provide the link, the abstract and the summary, but it is far more enlightening to read the entire paper.

Thank you, I had not seen this paper before. I read it and quite agree with the sentiment. And it's also always fun to read more detailed historical accounts of the development of some physics concepts. Always serves as a nice reminder how these concepts really are sociological constructs - with different order of discoveries, the common paradigms for modeling things would look different in details that many people just assume to be "proven by a theory".

For me the biggest quantum mystery right now is, who do people still insist on using the concept of photons. Observations of discrete energy steps are always cited as proof of photons, even in very reputable sources, which just seems incredibly silly to me. All observations are reactions of a piece of matter - why extend that observation to the idea of "free photons", especially when the same people recognize what a headache that extension is.

I guess many people have just decided that it's impossible to understand quantum mechanics intuitively, so we shouldn't even try. I beg to differ.

"Only a comedy of errors and historical accidents led to its popularity among physicists and optical scientists." is incredibly apt description. When I'm thinking of QM in terms of my interpretation, and I watch or read descriptions of quantum systems, I can see how that comedy keeps on giving. So many times I watch someone describe a quantum system completely with a wave equation, and saying "so this all makes perfect sense so far. But when I add photons into this picture it becomes a complete headache". All I can think of is - WELL THEN DON'T! 😅


Edited by AnssiH
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Hi Steven, thank you for your response.

5 hours ago, StevenDaryl said:

Bell’s proof that there is no local realistic explanation for the results of the EPR experiment doesn’t assume the existence of photons. There is a version of EPR that only uses electron/positron pairs. 


It's a critical fact here that electron behavior is indeed well described by a probabilistic wave function. That fact already implies electron can be interpreted as a pure wave phenomena as well, only getting its particle status by how it interacts with other elements (i.e. how a detection event occurs).

And that fact directly leads into a paradoxical circumstance, if we insist that it exists as a particle even when nothing is there to interact with it (i.e. to "detect" it)

Electron orbitals are described by a wave function which tells us the probabilities of finding electron from a specific position - or more accurately, the probability of inciting an interaction we call "electron" at some detection site.

As long as that circumstance is true, EPR paradox can be applied. You just need to find an experiment where the detection probability of any entangled property is modified by any wave modification, and you have created a paradoxical and/or non-local and/or non-realist circumstance for any "particles in free flight"-interpretation.

And to take that line of reasoning even further, there's a good chance this is true to other elementary "particles" too. If we consider DeBroglie's idea that all of matter is some kind of harmonic wave phenomena, then that implies that any experiment we can come up with, which manages to demonstrate a wave nature of anything, can also be used to apply it to an EPR paradox just by assuming the existence of particles between detection events.

What that would look like in terms of QA interpretation is a world full of harmonic waves in various modes and combinations, interacting with each other (locking and releasing wave energies). We'd call some of those interaction events "particles", and identify "individual particles" (across multiple detection events) based on our mental model of "particles". In that case it might certainly seem mysterious how do these "particles" appear to act like waves between detection sites. (Because they are actually just isolated events)

I don't want to even try to get into any sort of details for possible interaction mechanisms here (there are just too many possibilities), other than saying that it is certainly possible to model things in this manner. The important part is just that QA can provide a well defined mechanism to a "collapse of the wave function". It's not consciousness, it's any interactions that could taken as "particle detections". A detection event implies new information about the state of the system, and wave function starts to propagates out from that event, representing the unknown components of predicting where we might see the next detection event.


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