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Field patterns :
Field patterns exhibit characteristics of both propagating waves and localised particles, so this new mathematical framework could answer some of the biggest questions in quantum mechanics, where objects blur the fine line between particles and waves.
And, according to lead researcher Graeme Milton from the University of Utah, field patterns could even describe how some of the fundamental components of matter in the Universe come to exist.
When you open the doors to a new area, Milton explains, you don’t know where it will go.
Think of a branching tree :
let’s imagine the roots of the tree as the initial disturbance, and the ground as the initial time point. As time progresses (moving up the tree), the disturbance splits and branches as it encounters different boundaries. Once you get to the top of the tree, there’s a complex network of branches that can be described as the field pattern. If you look at one tree, the field pattern may appear chaotic, but look at enough trees over enough time, and you can see that the pattern repeats, like a chessboard.
The idea of a field pattern is a little like a wave in one tree but a separate wave in a different tree, Milton explains. You can imagine in one tree there’s a wind blowing from one direction that ripples the trees one way. But the other tree, with its own separate sets of leaves, as if the wind is coming from a different direction.
Quantum Mechanics Understanding :
One of the lingering questions we have about quantum mechanics is exactly how objects behave as both particles and waves – in quantum mechanics, particles don’t have a specific location until they’re measured. Instead, their probable location is represented as clouds.
But as soon as an observer measures the position of an object, the wave-like behaviour collapses into a single point of location, like a particle.
This is known as wave-particle duality. And field patterns might bridge this duality, because the disturbances are represented as points and discrete lines, like a particle, but then they also diffuse like a wave.
In its current form, field pattern theory doesn’t allow for the pattern to collapse back into a single point, but the researchers think that it could be possible.
Even more than that, they believe the field patterns have a connection to the basic building blocks of matter. A growing idea in physics is that fluctuations in space and time at the smallest scales could give rise to field patterns that manifest themselves as electrons and protons.
What we see as electrons, protons or quantum mechanical waves are manifestations of the fundamental super microscopic scale of these field patterns, -said Milton.
This is still very early theoretical work, and the current field pattern models the researchers have developed have their limitations – for now, overlapping field patterns don’t interact with each other, and some field patterns unexpectedly seem to expand exponentially, seemingly out of control. But this paper is just a first pass at the idea.
Now that this research has been published, other mathematicians can begin to conduct their own investigations on field patterns, and only time will tell where the work ends up.
Something may pop up from this, said Milton. What’s really fundamental, though, is going in a completely new direction.