[Physics] Can elementary particles be explained adequately by a wave-only model

elementary-particlespoint-particlesquantum mechanicswave-particle-dualitywaves

I have been watching quantum mechanics documentaries and reading a layman's book called "The Quantum Universe". I believe I understand why the double slit experiments exclude a particle only model. However I do not understand why the particle portion of particle-wave duality is needed. When I google the title to this question I do not get an adequate explanation of why the particle side of wave-particle duality is needed I feel. I believe the explanations assert that a particle moves in a wave-like/probabilistic manner but what is the evidence that requires a particle even exist instead of the wave itself being the whole story?

Is it because elementary particles have quantized states? Can elementary 'waves' not simply exist in quantized states without a particle? I guess I would also like to know how a wave-only model would differ from string theory if you would not mind. My understanding is that string theory replaces particles with vibrating strings that seem an awful lot like quantized waves in my head.

Forgive me if this is duplicate, my googlefu did not reveal a duplicate.

Best Answer

Elementary particles are understood today as the quanta of quantum fields. The fields are ontologically primary and exist even when there are no particles, but a quantum field is not “a wave-only model” as is, say, a classical electromagnetic field.

Instead, a quantum field is a continuous field, existing everywhere in spacetime, of operators that create and destroy quanta with particle-like properties. Quantum fields are not just waves, nor just particles, but rather a mathematical hybrid for which our classical environment gives us no intuition. Fortunately, mathematics makes them understandable to some degree and we find that models using quantum fields, such as the Standard Model, are extremely accurate.

One single quantum field, extending throughout the universe, can explain all electrons and positrons. (Why are all electrons identical? Because they are quanta of the same field!) One more field can explain all photons. One more can explain all up quarks and antiquarks, etc. A mere seventeen quantum fields, interacting with each other, make up the current Standard Model and are the basis for the world we see, except for gravity.

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