San José State University
Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Nature of Charged Particles

The conventional view of a charged particle is that it is a kernel of charge and mass which has associated with it an electromagnetic field and a gravitational field. Another view considers the particle as some sort of wave. The Copenhagen Interpretation considers the particle as usually not having a physical existence and typically only existing as a probability distribution. Quantum field theory treats a particle as a perturbation in a field. An alternative view is that the particle and its fields are one inseparable entity.

Consider how the matter of the nature of a charged particle affects the interpretation of double-slit experiment. In the double-slit experiment electrons are streamed at a plate with two narrow slits. After passing through that plate the electrons impinge upon a second plate that records their impacts. What is recorded is a diffraction pattern that arises when waves from different sources alternative interfere or enhance each other at different locations. The conventional interpretation is that one electron because of its nature somehow passes through both slits as waves and the waves interfere or enhance each other at different locations on the recording plate. The alternate view is that the three dimensional field of an electron passes in part through each of the slits and each slit creates a perturbation in the electromagnetic field. These perturbations travel as waves and interfere or enhance each other at different locations on the recording plate.

The analysis of the Aharonov-Bohm effect suggests that the field of a particle is more fundamentally given in terms of its scalar and vector potential functions rather than its electric and magnetic field intensities. The electric or magnetic fields can be blocked and thus made equal to zero over some region. The scalar or vector potential is not zero over that region and hence electrons passing through that region experience a phase shift in their wave functions which shows up in the form of a diffraction pattern.

The issue can be settled experimentally. Devices for detecting electric fields can be positioned in the slits on the back side of first plate. This would tell whether or not part of the field of an electron is passing through one slit while the electron is passing through the other slit.

(To be continued.)

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