The theory of photons and electrons by J.M. Jauch, F. Rohrlich

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By J.M. Jauch, F. Rohrlich

Moment corrected printing 1980. moment increased variation 1976.

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The theory of photons and electrons

Moment corrected printing 1980. moment extended version 1976.

Extra resources for The theory of photons and electrons

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But we do not need to destroy an electron or a proton in order for it to turn up in some definite place during that time. What causes a particle like an electron to become localized, and appear in one place rather than another? The theoretical answer to that question is deep and problematic. But the immediate empirical answer could not be more straightforward. The electron’s location becomes definite when an experimenter measures it! Until such a measurement is made, the electron could be anywhere on its guide wave; afterward, its location can be known (at least temporarily) to an arbitrarily high degree of precision.

If our electron detector clicked, it was the left-hand one; if it did not click, then by logical deduction, it was the right-hand one. This is disconcerting, but there is still a way to cling to the classical picture. 1 Just possibly, even the most innocuous detector somehow disrupts any guide waves passing nearby, which explains why a detector beside one of the slits is sufficient to destroy the whole of the interference pattern. It gets worse, though. So far, we have considered only the behavior of isolated particles.

Once again, in your trackside frame of reference, this signal arrives a second before it was sent. You get your message back 2 seconds before it was transmitted! And now all the familiar paradoxes of time travel arise. For example, what if the message asks the engineer of the rightward-going train to shoot you—therefore preventing your sending the message that asked him to do this? We do not really have such an instantaneous communicator, but what we do have is an unlimited supply of lottery cards that (unless we adopt the extreme philosophical positions described by Professor Cope) seem to require an instantaneous communication mechanism for their internal workings.

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