it is claimed that silicon droplets bouncing on a vibrating surface show behaviour in analogy to particle/wave duality in Quantum Mechanics.

Is this true? Did they really reproduce the double slit experiment (the video doesn't show that)? And what happens to the silicon droplets on a single slit? What about Quantum tunneling? Which effects of Quantum Mechanic can be "emulated" with bouncing silicon droplets and which can't?


marked as duplicate by knzhou, ZeroTheHero, Buzz, Kyle Kanos, Norbert Schuch Jan 6 at 0:38

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Back in the early days of quantum mechanics some physicists were unhappy with the idea that quantum mechanics only gave you probabilities, and various efforts were made to find theories in which physical properties had definite values but these values were hidden from us. These are generically known as hidden variable theories. One of the first hidden variable theories to be formulated was the pilot wave theory by de Broglie, later developed as the de Broglie-Bohm theory. In this theory a particle is really a particle, and it's associated with a pilot wave that guides its motion. The theory works, but it just predicts the same behaviour as the Schrodinger equation so there has historically been little enthusiasm for it.

The significance of the silicone droplet experiment is that it looks awfully like the pilot wave theory. The silicone droplet acts as the particle, and the waves they generate on the surface of the silicone bath act like the pilot wave. The similarity even extends as far as reproducing the double slit results. The silicone droplet only goes through one slit, but the associated wave goes through both slits and is therefore capable of generating the interference pattern.

The question is whether the behaviour of the silicone droplets is just an interesting coincidence, or whether it is genuinely a model for the way quantum particles behave. If the latter this suggests that the pilot wave theory is correct after all, and this would have big implications for the interpretation of quantum mechanics.

The impression I get is that most physicists think it's just an interesting coincidence, and they aren't about to reformulate quantum mechanics.

  • $\begingroup$ -1. "If the latter this suggests that the pilot wave theory is correct after all, and this would have big implications for the interpretation of quantum mechanics." This simply doesn't make any sense. All interpretations of quantum mechanics make the same predictions -- you can't prove one correct. And you especially can't prove a quantum interpretation correct by looking at a classical system with only a superficial resemblance to one example of a quantum system. If I make a subpar copy of the Mona Lisa using pencil, that doesn't mean the real Mona Lisa had to be drawn in pencil. $\endgroup$ – knzhou Jan 3 at 19:16

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