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What proof is there that electrons are particles?

Hello TED,

I'm not a physicist but the field interrests me...
And something within physics strikes me as very strange.
Namely that electrons are particles...

In the stuff I've been thought electrons were depicted as being 'small round things in an orbit around an atom'. And I can accept that were it not for the other observation that molecules are groups of several atoms being held together by the attraction and repulsion of the atoms and electrons.

It seems to me that you can always create a situation where the electron (if it is a particle) will collide with either other electrons or with other atom-nucleus'.

Therefor to me it seems a lot more logical that the "electron" is actually a force or a field rather than a particle.

But I am hoping that someone would have a link or an explanation which can show me why an electron is actually a particle.


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  • Jan 30 2013: I have a master's degree in Physics. The answer to your question is a little on the far out side, but I'll do what I can to get a clear explanation in under the character limit. The answer is that all subatomic "particles" including the electron have the characteristics of both a particle and a wave. This is going to be a little hard to believe but, the experiment you are doing determines whether you observe a particle or a wave. Edward is correct. In the Crooke's Tube experiment the electron exhibits the characteristics of a particle. However, Louis de Broglie posited in his 1924 one page Ph.D. thesis that matter could behave as a wave. An experiment, which was conceptually equivalent to the double slit diffraction experiment that proves light is a wave, was done with electrons and it was found that de Broglie's hypothesis was true. He won the 1929 Nobel Prize for his work.

    As a result of this, it doesn't make sense to think of the electron as being a particle that flies around inside of molecules. It is really neither truly a particle nor a wave.
    • Jan 30 2013: Well Robert,

      I am a guillable person... and to be honest I don't see why it would be hard to believe that electrons are neither particle nor wave (but have properties of both).

      However... then why have I been thaught that it is a "tiny ball moving around a spherical tiny nucleus like mad"?
      Couldn't they at least say that they are not sure what it is?

      Because all explanations I've ever heard start of by saying that an electron is a really small ball moving around an atom.... Heck even on TED there is an animated movie explaining atoms / particles in that way.
      • Jan 30 2013: I see it all the time, too. If you really wanted to explain all of the concepts and math behind quantum physics it would take several years of training and even then most people have a hard time with some of the concepts. I haven't told you the weirdest of them. I've been out of college for several years and I still have a hard time picturing some of it even though I think I understand it much better now than I did then. I can only conclude that the reason we are shown the "little balls" is partly popular culture and partly as a gross over simplification of the really strange stuff that is actually happening.
        • Jan 30 2013: Strange because to me everything seems so much more simple when the idea of "tiny objects" gets removed from the picture.
      • Jan 30 2013: If you get "tiny objects" removed from the picture, you'll face the question : what is real ?
        • Jan 30 2013: don't we already face that question?

          Anyway for me it is not a large step to go from "gas like atoms/molecules" to a solid object... because it just means that the force they have pulling them together is greater than the force pressing on it.

          Won't you agree that if you think of the world just as forces.... that it means that:
          a solid = more internal force than force trying to 'seperate it'.
          a liquid = slightly more internal force than force trying to "seperate it" however when you apply extra force you can split it.
          a gas = such a weak force that it gets seperated and eventually forms a mixture based on several properties.
      • Jan 31 2013: Yes , we do, but people usually don't like 'what is real ' kind of questions.
        I've just tried to explain why people prefer ' tiny objects ' to stay in the picture ; maybe because it is something that can be 'hold', it gives human psychy the comfort of understanding.
        • Jan 31 2013: well I once learned they were tiny objects... but eventually I got so much discomfort in observing a dissimilar reality that I wrote a post about it here (see above ;)).

          And if I as a 'normal person' can already figure this out try to imagine how many people are being misslead because their teachers told them that electrons and atoms are similar to different types of balls moving around influencing eachother.

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