Problems with the wave particle theory of light

There are at least two reasons why the wave-particle theory of light is not a scientific theory. The first is that it is not scientifically testable, the second is that it requires an instantaneous transfer across the whole universe of the information regarding the annihilation of each and every photon in what if anyone thinks about it is scientific gibberish.

This is something that I started about 30 years ago. Put simply it is just an easier way to explain the behaviour of light which is not only compatible with the experimental data, but more importantly – it makes sense and is scientifically testable.

This first article is just to outline the issue with the current wave particle theory which to recap, in the classical theory of light, it is said to take two different forms:

  • A particle
  • An electron-magnetic wave

From which it has become known as the “wave-particle” duality. But in science there is a simple requirement and that is that any theory must be disprovable.

So, let us perform a thought experiment. If we get wave like properties does this disprove this theory? Obviously not. However, if however, we repeat the same experiment and this time we get particle like properties, does this disprove the theory? No! That is because the theory says it can be a wave and it can be a particle – but it doesn’t say when it will behave like either. Nor does it say it must always behave like one or the other. So, it can almost arbitrarily appear as a wave or a particle or just appear as one – but because it never predicts when it is a wave or when a particle there is really nothing that can be disproven.

To show how unscientific this wave-particle theory is, let me propose a new version of the theory. This I will call the wave-particle-bullshit theory. This theory, says that light might behave like a wave, like a particle or like bullshit. I don’t know of any instance where light does behave like Bullshit, but using the same “rules” of the wave-particle theory, I don’t have to know when it behaves like bullshit. So, under what circumstances can I prove the wave-particle-bullshit theory incorrect? Just like the wave-particle theory, because I don’t specify when the light appears as bullshit, even if it never appears as bullshit,  it can never be disproven – because failing to appear as bullshit just means we have to wait a bit longer.

So, the wave-particl-bullshit theory, like the wave particle theory is scientifically untestable.

The second problem is that if light travels as a probability wave for a long time, the wave front will spread out over greater and greater distances. Then at some point when it interacts with one speck of matter the whole wave is suppose to collapse in an instant into one point. So, in effect, the probability wave might travel hundreds of millions of miles in an instant. Not only does this break the rule about the limit of the speed of light – but it also makes no sense at all as the probability wave has to instantly know how to get to a very small area of space around an atom.

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5 Responses to Problems with the wave particle theory of light

  1. oldbrew says:

    For an alternative view, Miles Mathis says:

    ‘Mainstream physics still has not recognized that the wave/particle duality is not really a duality. The photon is not “sometimes a wave and sometimes a particle,” it is always a particle with an intrinsic wave, caused by a simple stacking of spins.’

  2. billalsept says:

    The best three rules for a particle theory of light are: No waves, no damn waves, no God damn waves! Try this particle theory of light.

  3. Philip Oakley says:

    There are two distinct problems to be separated out here.

    1. The continuum – quantum problem. If, in the photo-electric effect, we reduce the intensity of light (fixed colour) we should see, if it were a continuum (smooth stream of light) that the current generated would also be a smooth continuum, but it’s not. It becomes quantised as electrons are released one at a time, at random. This is the step that says that the Newtonian classical mechanics breaks down (Newton had to go really carefully to get his infinitesimal differentials to be accepted, but the mechanics proved very useful and was hence accepted as a good model at those scales)

    2. The representation issue for the quanta which is a mathematical duality issue. The Fourier transform already works quite nicely for space versus time representations. However the conceptual abstractions for the wave-particle issue are usually (IMHO) taken too far, so we either get waves of infinite extent (hence of negligible presence any where) or we get infinitesimal points which don’t work either for the mathematics of the physics.

    Ultimately we have a physical world that at the moment has an uncertainty box (which is a Fourier effect) for the common sub-atomic structure of the Heisenberg value, so we should be using wave functions, but that’s just a bit too hard for everyday sums, so the physicists have agreed on the common collective fiction that it is a solved problem and that ‘waves’ are that solution. Just don’t scratch the surface.


    PS Time is also a tricky problem for ‘spooky action at a distance’ if no-one agrees on the alleged causal time sequence – there being no reference frame.

    • Scottish-Sceptic says:

      On the first point – “turning down” the electromagnetic wave is just what happens with radio waves. And we NEVER talk about radio waves being quantised, instead we talk about the noise generated by the discrete charges.

      And in fact, a magnet as you hold it – due to the relationship between electricity and magnetism also creates an electromagnetic wave. And at what point is that “quantised”. Indeed, if we change our reference frame so that we are moving with the magnet – what happens to the supposed quantisation of the electromagnetic wave. Is the quantum effect also relative – in that it gets quantised (becomes a particle) – but only if we start moving.

      However, the problem that the article addresses is that there are two sets of phenomenon – one “particle” and the other EM wave – and the theory does not predict when one should be used and not the other. As such …. if EM effect … does not give rise to particle effects in the radio spectrum … is this compatible with the theory?

      Let us illustrate this by saying that humans are “male” or “female” … and now if we find a male … does this prove the theory? If we don’t find any females does this prove or disprove the theory? And if someone is told “only women in this toilet” … if they then say “I have decided to be a woman” … is this compatible or incompatible with the theory that humans are male of female.

      Obviously what is missing is a “but not both” – some sense of exclusivity or at least (in the case of transgender) that they have to chose to be one or the other … but they cannot be both. For that is what the wave particle duality theory is. It’s really a person who decides to be male when it suits, female when not, ambiguous when it also suits … and as such … they can break all the laws regarding gender with impunity.

      Likewise the wave-particle duality theory allows the theory to break all the rules when and if it suits and as such it fails the criteria of being rejectable that is necessary for science.

      • Philip Oakley says:

        sorry for the delay..
        You mention that RF folk rarely (if ever) mention radio waves being quantised, which is true, however what isn’t usually noticed is that the RF noise floor is a duality of the quantum limit, but they don’t mention it.

        Interestingly (if you believe it), photons are classed as bosons (as opposed to fermions) and bosons can condense into a bose-einstein condensate (that probably should be capiltalised;-) which is normally mentioned in those very cold liquid Helium experiments, however the RF wave is also a BEC. They all fall into lockstep in the same state making a nice wave!

        Now the issue you mentioned was waving a magnet around slowly, and not noticing the photons falling off the end, which is very true. However the ‘turning down’ I mentioned is the strength of the magnet being waved at a specific frequency, so that if the strength is taken low enough, then the photons do fall off the end at random.

        Though for us to see the quantised photon effect we need to go to light wave frequencies, rather than the ‘slow’ RF frequencies [that transition gap is the EO – RF gap, and is only now being closed with mm wave and THz imaging].

        Your point about the male-female dichotomy-continuum has the same fun discussion as Schroedinger’s cat’s death. It’s not as clean cut as folk want it to be. We don’t like uncertainty. Religions and belief systems depend on it.

        One of the big issues with the wave-particle discussions is the Humty-Dumpty effect where words don’t mean what we expect, rather they are hat pegs for folks to hang their coats on…

        The wave-particle should be discussed as the continuity-locality requirements, and finite energy. So perfect particles are out as they have discontinuity in position, while plane waves are out as they have no locality.

        Usually the ‘breaks all the rules’ problem you mention is that the presented theories are often the simplified versions for students at a level below that of the enquiring mind, and without any mention of the problems those simplifications create. (E.g. have a read of Maxewell’s EM theory book, the bit where he presents them in quaternion form for an interesting view about the reader capabilities! it’s available on-line at the Cornell library as a page by page scan, IIRC its Vol 2 Ch X ..ish). Or – Circuits produce no EMI (unless an antenna componet is specifically included ;-)

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