The complementarity of wave- and particle-like viewpoints on EM wave propagation

In 1995, W.E. Lamb Jr. wrote the following on the nature of the photon: “There is no such thing as a photon. Only a comedy of errors and historical accidents led to its popularity among physicists and optical scientists. I admit that the word is short and convenient. Its use is also habit forming. Similarly, one might find it convenient to speak of the “aether” or “vacuum” to stand for empty space, even if no such thing existed. There are very good substitute words for “photon”, (e.g., “radiation” or “light”), and for “photonics” (e.g., “optics” or “quantum optics”). Similar objections are possible to use of the word “phonon”, which dates from 1932. Objects like electrons, neutrinos of finite rest mass, or helium atoms can, under suitable conditions, be considered to be particles, since their theories then have viable non-relativistic and non-quantum limits.”[1]

The opinion of a Nobel Prize laureate carries some weight, of course, but we think the concept of a photon makes sense. As the electron moves from one (potential) energy state to another – from one atomic or molecular orbital to another – it builds an oscillating electromagnetic field which has an integrity of its own and, therefore, is not only wave-like but also particle-like.

We, therefore, dedicated the fifth chapter of our re-write of Feynman’s Lectures to a dual analysis of EM radiation (and, yes, this post is just an announcement of the paper so you are supposed to click the link to read it). It is, basically, an overview of a rather particular expression of Maxwell’s equations which Feynman uses to discuss the laws of radiation. I wonder how to – possibly – ‘transform’ or ‘transpose’ this framework so it might apply to deep electron orbitals and – possibly – proton-neutron oscillations.

[1] W.E. Lamb Jr., Anti-photon, in: Applied Physics B volume 60, pages 77–84 (1995).

Signing off…

I have been exploring the weird wonderland of physics for over seven years now. At several occasions, I thought I should just stop. It was rewarding, but terribly exhausting at times as well! I am happy I did not give up, if only because I finally managed to come up with a more realist interpretation of the ‘mystery’ of matter-antimatter pair production/annihilation. So, yes, I think I can confidently state I finally understand physics the way I want to understand it. It was an extraordinary journey, and I am happy I could share it with many fellow searchers (300 posts and 300,000 hits on my first website now, 10,000+ downloads of papers (including the downloads from Phil Gibb’s site and and, better still, lots of interesting conversations.

One of these conversations was with a fine nuclear physicist, Andrew Meulenberg. We were in touch on the idea of a neutron (some kind of combination of a proton and a ‘nuclear’ electron—following up on Rutherford’s original idea, basically). More importantly, we chatted about, perhaps, developing a model for the deuterium nucleus (deuteron)—the hydrogen isotope which consists of a proton and a neutron. However, I feel I need to let go here, if only because I do not think I have the required mathematical skills for a venture like this. I feel somewhat guilty of letting him down. Hence, just in case someone out there feels he could contribute to this, I am copying my last email to him below. It sort of sums up my basic intuitions in terms of how one could possibly approach this.

Can it be done? Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that not many have been trying since Bohr’s young wolves hijacked scientific discourse after the 1927 Solvay Conference and elevated a mathematical technique – perturbation theory – to the scientific dogma which is now referred to as quantum field theory.

So, yes, now I am really signing off. Thanks for reading me, now or in the past—I wrote my first post here about seven years ago! I hope it was not only useful but enjoyable as well. Oh—And please check out my YouTube channel on Physics ! 🙂

From: Jean Louis Van Belle
Sent: 14 November 2020 17:59
To: Andrew Meulenberg
Subject: Time and energy…

These things are hard… You are definitely much smarter with these things than I can aspire too… But I do have ideas. We must analyze the proton in terms of a collection of infinitesimally small charges – just like Feynman’s failed assembly of the electron ( it must be possible to do this and it will give us the equivalent of electromagnetic mass for the strong force. The assembly of the proton out of infinitesimally small charge bits will work because the proton is, effectively, massive. Not like an electron which effectively appears as a ‘cloud’ of charge and, therefore, has several radii and, yes, can pass through the nucleus and also ‘envelopes’ a proton when forming a neutron with it.

I cannot offer much in terms of analytical skills here. All of quantum physics – the new model of a hydrogen atom – grew out of the intuition of a young genius (Louis de Broglie) and a seasoned mathematical physicist (Erwin Schroedinger) finding a mathematical equation for it. That model is valid still – we just need to add spin from the outset (cf. the plus/minus sign of the imaginary unit) and acknowledge the indeterminacy in it is just statistical, but these are minor things.

I have not looked at your analysis of a neutron as an (hyper-)excited state of the hydrogen atom yet but it must be correct: what else can it be? It is what Rutherford said it should be when he first hypothesized the existence of a neutron.

I do not know how much time I want to devote to this (to be honest, I am totally sick of academic physics) but – whatever time I have – I want to contribute to an intuitive, realist and mathematically correct model of the deuteron nucleus.


Quantum field theory and pair creation/annihilation

The creation and annihilation of matter-antimatter pairs is usually taken as proof that, somehow, fields can condense into matter-particles or, conversely, that matter-particles can somehow turn into light-particles (photons), which are nothing but traveling electromagnetic fields. However, pair creation always requires the presence of another particle and one may, therefore, legitimately wonder whether the electron and positron were not already present, somehow.

Carl Anderson’s original discovery of the positron involved cosmic rays hitting atmospheric molecules, a process which involves the creation of unstable particles including pions. Cosmic rays themselves are, unlike what the name suggests, no rays – not like gamma rays, at least – but highly energetic protons and atomic nuclei. Hence, they consist of matter-particles, not of photons. The creation of electron-positron pairs from cosmic rays also involves pions as intermediate particles:

1. The π+ and π particles have net positive and negative charge of 1 e+ and 1 e respectively. According to mainstream theory, this is because they combine a u and d quark but – abandoning the quark hypothesis[1] – we may want to think their charge could be explained, perhaps, by the presence of an electron![2]

2. The neutral pion, in turn, might, perhaps, consist of an electron and a positron, which should annihilate but take some time to do so!

Neutral pions have a much shorter lifetime – in the order of 10-18 s only – than π+ and π particles, whose lifetime is a much more respectable 2.6 times 10-8 s. Something you can effectively measure, in order words.[3] In short, despite similar energies, neutral pions do not seem to have a lot in common with π+ and π particles. Even the energy difference is quite substantial when measured in terms of the electron mass: the neutral pion has an energy of about 135 MeV, while π+ and π particles have an energy of almost 140 MeV. To be precise, the difference is about 4.6 MeV. That is quite a lot: the electron rest energy is 0.511 MeV only.[4] So it is not stupid to think that π+ and π particles might carry an extra positron or electron, somehow. In our not-so-humble view, this is as legitimate as thinking – like Rutherford did – that a neutron should, somehow, combine a proton and an electron.[5]

The whole analysis – both in the QED as well as in the QCD sector of quantum physics – would radically alter when thinking of neutral particles – such as neutrons and π0 particles – not as consisting of quarks but of protons/antiprotons and/or electrons/positrons cancelling each other’s charges out. We have not seen much – if anything – which convinces us this cannot be correct. We, therefore, believe a more realist interpretation of quantum physics should be possible for high-energy phenomena as well. With a more realist theory, we mean one that does not involve quantum field and/or renormalization theory.

Such new theory would not be contradictory to the principle that, in Nature, the number of charged particles is no longer conserved, but that total (net) charge is actually being conserved, always. Hence, charged particles could appear and disappear, but they would be part of neutral particles. All particles in such processes are very short-lived anyway, so what is a particle here? We should probably think of these things as an unstable combination of various bits and bobs, isn’t it? 😊

So, yes, we did a paper on this. And we like it. Have a look: it’s on ResearchGate,, and – as usual – Phil Gibb’s site (which has all of our papers, including our very early ones, which you might want to take with a pinch of salt). 🙂

[1] You may be so familiar with quarks that you do not want to question this hypothesis anymore. If so, let me ask you: where do the quarks go when a π± particle disintegrates into a muon-e±?

[2] They disintegrate into muons (muon-electrons or muon-positrons), which themselves then decay into an electron or a positron respectively.

[3] The point estimate of the lifetime of a neutral pion of the Particle Data Group (PDG) is about 8.5 times 10-17 s. Such short lifetimes cannot measured in a classical sense: such particles are usually referred to as resonances (rather than particles) and the lifetime is calculated from a so-called resonance width. We may discuss this approach in more detail later.

[4] Of course, it is much smaller when compared to the proton (rest) energy, which it is about 938 MeV.

[5] See our short history of quantum-mechanical ideas or our paper on protons and neutrons.