text.

*Chapter 1 *

Quantum Basics

To make this book more self-contained, this chapter will review the most important points described in detail in prior eBooks on Quantum Mechanics in the *Everyone’s Guide Series*.

PARTICLE-WAVE DUALITY

We previously discussed the revolutionary idea that became the foundation of Quantum Mechanics: particle-wave duality, a concept that flew in the face of everything physicists thought they knew about nature. Albert Einstein initiated this concept by proclaiming that light was both a particle and a wave. Louis de Broglie extended the concept by proposing that particles had wavelengths. We now understand that everything is *both *a particle and a wave. Particle

and wave

describe characteristics that are possessed to varying degrees by everything in nature.

WAVES

Let’s review basic wave terminology. As illustrated below, waves are characterized by amplitude and wavelength. Amplitude *A *is how high the wave goes up above and goes down below its average height. Wavelength *w *is the distance between crests, which is also the distance between troughs.

Waves are motion. They smoothly move through space and change with time. A wave that oscillates through 9 full cycles per second has a frequency f of 9 Hz. The product of wavelength and frequency equals the wave’s velocity v*: wf=v*. Other key relationships are *E=hf *(for photons) and *w=h/p *(for any entity), where *E *is energy, *h *is Planck’s constant, and *p *is momentum.

WAVE PACKETS

Quantum Mechanics conceives of particles as being *wave packets*. On the left side of the graphic below are five waves of different frequencies. On the right is the sum of these five waves — a wave packet.

The original five waves extend to infinity to the left and to the right. Each has a precisely defined wavelength but a completely undefined location. On the other hand, the wave packet is somewhat localized — it is spread across a limited distance — making the wave packet more particle-like.

But, adding waves of differing wavelengths makes a wave packet’s wavelength uncertain. We find an unavoidable tradeoff:

Adding*more*waves of different wavelengths shortens the packet, making:its*location less uncertain*, but its*wavelength more uncertain*.

Adding*fewer*wavelengths stretches the packet, making:its *location more uncertain*, but its *wavelength less uncertain*.

We can trade one uncertainty for the other, but we can’t reduce both. The fact is: uncertainty is inevitable. It’s a mathematical necessity of any wave packet that the uncertainty of its location, *dx*, is inversely proportional to the uncertainty of its frequency, *df*, thus: *dx ~ 1/df*.

UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE

Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, one of the most important consequences of Quantum Mechanics, results directly from the properties of wave packets. Uncertainty in wavelength means uncertainty in momentum. Since a wave packet’s positional uncertainty is inversely proportional to its wavelength uncertainty, the conclusion is: *dx ~ 1/dpx*, where *dpx *is the uncertainty in momentum along the x direction. Similar equations apply to the other two spatial directions: *dy ~ 1/dpy *and *dz ~ 1/ dpz*. Additionally, Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity states time is a fourth dimension on an equal, if somewhat distinct, basis with the spatial dimensions. Einstein taught us the laws of nature are simplest when expressed in four-dimensional *spacetime *(see **Special Relativity 2: Spacetime & Space Travel). Thus, we have a fourth uncertainty equation: dt ~ **