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Just Getting Started; Field theory and Probability


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Hey all,


I'm not sure if this should go in Quantum Theory, or Amateur Science, so I just went with Quantum Theory!


Since I'm just getting into this stuff, my question is pretty basic: are things REALLY fields, and are things at the quantum level REALLY probabalistic? The reason I ask this is because I'm starting to get confused on what to use as a mental image or a visual model, and what these things actually represent.


My understanding of quantum field theory is that there is a field for every subatomic particle we know of: an electron field, a quark field, and then various force-carrying fields such as a gravity field, higgs field, etc. Following from this theory, everything we see in the universe is simply a vibration in this field, like dropping a ball in a tank of water, where the tank is the universe and the ball is an atom. The pushing aside of the water would be a vibration or movement of the field.


What I don't get here is the distinction between fields and particles. As I understand it, particles are just what we call a bump or a vibration in the field. What we think of as an electron, is merely a point in space and time where the electron field has risen above it's resting state to a higher energy. Assuming I got all that right, the question is...how sure are we that that's the case? What is the math/evidence for fields? I'm thinking my biggest issue here is breaking the visualization barrier.


The other question I had isn't necessarily related to fields, but it is definitely quantum theory. The quantum world is probablistic; that's why we have the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. It's impossible to know both where an electron will be and when it will be there, we can only make estimations. Is this actually the way subatomic particles work? Is their movement, energy, location, etc. TRULY random with only a probability of a certain value? Or, is it merely a matter of us not knowing how to properly measure these events? I guess what I mean is, are quantum mechanical events TRULY probablistic, or do they just appear that way to us?


Sorry for the noob-ish questions. I'm a newcomer to science (graduated college with a music degree last May), but I've discovered this passion for it, and I'm trying to read and learn everything I can. Since I don't really have any teachers or anything like that to ask these questions to, I often find these boards a good place to go :)



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