Even though this is currently described with a probabilistic approach, can't it be that we are yet to discover smaller particles in an electron?

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    $\begingroup$ Whether or not the electron is a fundamental particle, it is by no means related to what its wave function looks like (after all, there is no such thing of "wave function of a particle"; the wave function describes a state, and a particle can be in many states). $\endgroup$
    – gented
    Feb 21 '17 at 10:44
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    $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/41676/2451 , physics.stackexchange.com/q/137541/2451 and links therein. $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Feb 21 '17 at 12:07

Quantum mechanics IS quite weird. For a long time scientists tried to find a more simple explanation of the strange experimental results. Very famous scientists, such as Einstien. Quantum mechanics deals with wave-functions and can predict results of experiments only probabilistically. May be this is just because we did not dig deep enough and do not know something about internal state of the system? May be if we have more details about electron state there would be no need to introduce the wave-functions?

These attempts are futile so far.

More than that, there are strong evidences that such a theory is impossible. For example if such a theory is constructed, it must be possible that particles interact faster-than-light. That would mean that either it is possible to construct time-machine, or the theory implies some very strange restrictions which would not allow to use these inter-particle interactions to transfer information. The theory would not be "simple".

It does not mean that electron does not consist of smaller parts.

This wiki article about the history of hidden variables theories could be interesting: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hidden_variable_theory


There theoretical proposals within the framework of quantum mechanics that consider the electron as composite.See the Preon theory. Before the quarks were proposed as constituents of the proton the proton was treated as elementary without constituents. The probabilistic nature is inherent in quantum mechanics, so compositeness does not mean determinism.

Anyhow , the standard model fits most particle data very well and the experimental limits on compositeness are very strict.

An early attempt to find an underlying deteministic layer giving the probabilities was Bohmian mechanics.. It succeeded at the non relativistic quantum mechanics in describing the same data , with no possibility of predicting a different experimental behavior, just giving the same results in an alternate mathematical description. It has difficulty with many body systems and relativistic mechanics and research in this is not main stream.

There are theorists working on theories which assume a deterministic layer below the quantum mechanical layer for elementary particles, the probability coming in a statistical manner. These theories are not successful in replacing quantum field theory. This is the state research is in now, theorists concentrating in unifying all four forces with quantum mechanical theories, and not looking for underlying determinism.

  • $\begingroup$ "Before the quarks were proposed as constituents of the proton the proton was treated as elementary without constituents." Well, proton form factor measurements started in the 1950s, so there was solid reason to expect sub-structure quite some time before quarks were proposed. $\endgroup$ Sep 8 '17 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @dmckee well , there was the parton model first 1969?. quarks just came as a specific model, and form factors could just be an expression of a quantum mechanical cloud without constituents but a continuum, no? $\endgroup$
    – anna v
    Sep 8 '17 at 17:51

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