Yes, I am only a lay person of physics but enjoy reading
about it on the Internet. And have always wondered about electrons
in so called orbitals. Which shows where they are most likely to be
found. And this is because I do not see the electron as a particle
but instead as a standing wave. With the nodal point as the point
particle. (Which I learned from reading about the studies of Milo
Wolffe.) And so, my question is, can electron orbitals be reconciled
with the electron as a standing wave? Since its nodal point is also
rapidly oscillating up and down as a point particle? Just as an
electron (as a smear) may do inside its orbital? And I also make
this comparison because I have a hard time with the notion of
probability. That is, the exact position of the electron can never
be known. But determined by probability. Because if you consider it
as a nodal point, then the "pattern" of oscillation is an
established thing without randomness? Having a reason and mechanism
for its behavior?
The greatest problem when talking about and electron orbital is that one
cannot even truly say a standing wave will work. An orbital is not a
loop around the nucleus with a standing wave on it. This does agree
with some of the properties of electrons in orbit, but not with all of
them. Electron orbitals have a variety of shapes, all of them being
three-dimensional. Some are solid spheres. Some are shaped more like
an hour-glass with the nucleus near at the narrowest point. Higher
level orbitals are too difficult to describe with just a few words. The
standing wave model is used because in many cases it does work just as
well as the quantum physics model. Sometimes, just a ball orbiting in a
circle around the nucleus works well enough to be useful.
Just like all other individual "particles", an electron is not really a
particle or a wave. Physics has found that an electron sometimes acts
more like what we call a particle. Sometimes, however, it acts more
like what we call a wave. It is not really either one. How it behaves
can depend on things such as how you measure it. We know what electrons
can do. We know what they cannot do. We know how they interact with
other things. We know many things about electrons. Still, we do not
actually know what they are.
Dr. Ken Mellendorf
Illinois Central College
You do not have to apologize for your questioning, that is what
scientific research is made of.
It is useful to use the history of the "end result" to gain an
insight of how the mechanics works.
If you bring a proton (electrical charge of +1) and an electron
(electrical charge of -1) near one another, classical electrical theory
predicts that the two particles will spiral into one another, giving off
radiation until the "product" is a combination of the two particles, giving
off radiation that is the energy of the combined particles (E= m x c^2). The
combination of a single proton and a single electron is just a hydrogen
atom, the simplest of all atoms. The difference in their masses changes the
"numbers" but does not change the end result.
However, there was a "problem". Classical theory, very deeply imbedded
in classical theory, did not agree with the observations! Instead, the
electron and proton in a hydrogen atom do not spiral with a continuum of
radiation. Rather, the radiation occurred in a set of very specific
frequencies, and the electron and proton do not "destroy" one another.
Niels Bohr made a profound assumption: He proposed that the orbit of the
electron was limited to certain energy differences. You have to appreciate
this radical assumption in generations of successful predictions of the
behavior of electrically charged species. Bohr's atom broke all the existing
The "story" goes on approximately at the same time. Other observations
began not to "fit" the picture of classical theory. Without getting into the
details (although they are by no means trivial), Erwin Schroedinger (~1926)
introduced "quantum numbers" in a "natural way". His equations were based
on the formalization of waves -- hence the "wave equation". Shortly
thereafter other formulations were developed (Dirac).
This is too involved to be developed here; however, the text:
"Introduction to Quantum Mechanics"
by Linus Pauling and E. Bright Wilson provides an accurate and detailed
account of the development of quantum mechanics as applied to chemistry.
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Update: June 2012