Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [1.3.12] Atom in Modern Science - New Physics - Quantum Field Theory

Published: 26.06.2007
Updated: 06.08.2008

Our natural assumption that 'particles' are real things is repudiated by quantum mechanics, which is the most successful theory of physics. It has explained successfully everything from subatomic particles to stellar phenomena.

Quantum theory tells us that 'particles' are actually interactions between fields. When two fields interact with each other, they do it instantaneously and at one single point in space. These instantaneous and localized interactions are 'particles'. The continual creation and annihilation of particles as discussed above is the result of the continual interaction of different fields and the theory which deals with these interactions is called 'quantum' field theory. Quantum field theory merges quantum mechanics and relativity, albeit in a limited way. It is an ad hoc but a successful physical theory premised on the assumption that physical reality is essentially non-substantial and fields alone are real Fields, and not particles, are the substance of the universe.

A quantum is an indivisible whole - a piece of something while a field is a whole area of something. Thus, a 'quantum field' is the juxtaposition of two irreconcilable concepts - a paradox. Whereas our logical mentality would demand that something is either this or that, but not both, the quantum theory boldly states that something can be this as well as that (a wave as well as a particle). The language of quantum theory is considered to be precise but tricky. It does not state that something, for instance, light can be wave-like and particle-like at the same time. According to Bohr's 'complementarity', light reveals a particle-like aspect or a wave-like aspect, depending upon the context, i.e., the nature of the experiment. It is not possible to observe both - the wave-like and the particle-like aspects in the same situation. However, both of these mutually exclusive (complementary) aspects are needed to fully understand 'light'. In this sense light is both - particle-like and wave-like.

[1] This precisely is the Jain position with regard to any two opposites.
For further discussion see chapter 3 of this book.
Complementarity is the concept developed by Niels Bohr (one of the founders of the quantum theory) to explain the wave-particle duality of light. Although one of them always excludes the other, both of them are necessary to understand (the nature of) light. Light or anything else cannot be both wave-like and particle-like in the samecontext. [1]

Individual events are always particle-like; wave behaviour is detected as a statistical pattern - interference. However, in the words of Paul Dirac (another founder of quantum mechanics), even a single subatomic particle interferes with itself. But how a single subatomic particle, like an electron, can interfere with itself is a basic quantum paradox.

Individual events are always particle-like; wave behaviour is detected as a statistical pattern - interference. However, in the words of Paul Dirac (another founder of quantum mechanics), even a single subatomic particle interferes with itself. But how a single subatomic particle, like an electron, can interfere with itself is a basic quantum paradox.

Sources
  • Jain Vishva Barati Institute, Ladnun, India
  • Edited by Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • 3rd Edition 1995

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  1. Niels Bohr
  2. Quantum Mechanics
  3. Quantum Theory
  4. Space
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