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wave-particle duality[′wāv ′pärd·ə·kəl dü′al·əd·ē]
a proposition central to quantum mechanics that the behavior of microobjects exhibits both corpuscular and wave characteristics.
In accordance with the concepts of classical (nonquantum) physics, the motion of particles and the propagation of waves differ in principle. However, experiments on the ejection of electrons from metal surfaces by light (photoelectric effect), the study of the scattering of rays by electrons (Compton effect), and a number of other experiments have convincingly demonstrated that light and X-rays, which, according to classical theory, have a wave nature, behave similarly to a flux of particles. A “particle” of light (photon) has an energy E and a momentum ρ, which are related to the frequency ν and the wavelength λ of light by the equations E = hv and ρ = h/λ, where h is Planck’s constant. On the other hand, it has been found that a beam of electrons impinging on a crystal gives a diffraction pattern that cannot be interpreted in any other way but on the basis of wave concepts. It was established later that this phenomenon is characteristic of microparticles in general.
Thus, a characteristic feature of the microworld is the duality of corpuscular and wave properties, which cannot be understood within the framework of classical physics. For example, the generation of a diffraction pattern during the scattering of particles is incompatible with the conception of the motion of these particles along trajectories. The wave-particle duality is given a natural interpretation in quantum mechanics.
D. V. GAL’TSOV