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Cathode Rays and Young's Double Slit


Mr Makemean
Logical, unlike those in German
A friend of mine has this idea that I am not entirely sold on (though I would very much like to converted to with full zeal), and that is that the way quantum theory is thought in universities is completely wrong. In his opinion, one should skip quantum mechanics all together, and move straight from classical physics to quantum field theory. He has already managed to come up with QFT re-formulations of various "classical examples" like the infinite square well, etc.

So as I was thinking about how to develop science in the world of the Great Nordic Election Night, having already established some basic ideas that I've long been eager to try out, like if Carl Wilhelm Scheele's had been able to develop his theories of Phlogiston that were increasingly beginning to look like our modern notions of reduction and oxidation in chemistry to "discover" that Phlogiston was the same as Electricity--and dropping both names in favour of the more 'logical and straightforward' Blixtkraft--I kind of wondered where to go next.

I feel a problem with the development of science in more longer-running timelines (especially the ones back in the Old Country) was that they all tended to have science develop in this very formulaic way. Discovery X is made, which leads to discovery Y, which leads to discovery Z, etc. Sure, we don't end up with Michael Faraday and Albert Einstein but Xavier Belafonte and Gregor Rosenfelt, and we don't end up with electromagnetism and quantum mechanics, but with anbaric physics and droplet mechanics, but the bast template is still there. If we remove Faraday and Maxwell, we still need someone to be there to do the things that Faraday and Maxwell did. If Newton is never born, then there's still some poor fellow out there who will be hit on the head by the proverbial falling apple.

And this is kind of odd.

Why should it be like that? Why couldn't things have turned out in a different way, with people making the discoveries in a completely different order, elaborating completely different theories and ideas from the ones that have been handed down to us through the annals of history?

And this kind of brings me back to the idea I mentioned at the outset of this post. What if quantum theory develops in such a way as to leap-frog over the quantum mechanics stage all together? How would that go about?

Well, I figured, there was a debate in OTL as to whether or not light was a particle or it was a wave. Newton operated under the belief that it was a particle, and some mathematicians during the 18th century followed his lead. However, around the year 1800, the consensus was rapidly turning towards that light was definitely a wave, and the Young Double Slit Experiment more or less established it beyond doubt. It would first be with the advent of the Ultraviolet Catastrophy that the notion that light could exhibit particular properties started to gain traction again.

So I wondered, well, let's say that it is the early 19th century, and the "electric craze" is taking off the ground in scientific circles. Surely, I figured, people have got to be asking this question, is it possible to isolate electricity away from being bound in any particular substance? (Remember, Leyden jars were actually invented by a Pomeranian alchemists who was trying to store electricity on a bottle in a very literal sense.) Or, does nature abhorr free electricity, so to speak?

From thence, I got this idea that people start trying to observe electricity move between electrodes without any conducting material at all, at a much earlier date performing the experiment that Faraday performed in 1839 in which he constructed a very primitive Geissler tube. As people become better at sucking out air from glass tubes, and so develop more and more remarkable Geissler tubes, and soon enough, cathode rays are discovered.

Someone, however, insists that this must be a form of radiation, and so to prove it, they decide to do a Young's Double Slit on them (this was an experiment first performed in 1927 in OTL), and lo and behold, wave-like properties. Of course, then someone else is able to prove that these cathode rays are in fact the very electricity that they were looking for, leading to the curious recognitions that electrons themselves must be waves of some "aether", a Fulmeniferous Aether to complement the Luminiferous one.



Directly Elected Mayor of the Western Hemisphere
Published by SLP
I do think we act as though the process of scientific discovery is more deterministic than it is, as you know - this sounds like an interesting alternative. I would point out that the broader concept of radiation, there being light-like things that aren't visible, was probably more outside the scope of speculation in the mid-19th century at that point, which might cause issues. Remember, the idea that Maxwell's equations predicted such phenomena (speaking of other forms of EM radiation rather than cathode rays, but you take the point) was considered so unexpected that it was the chief test for their validity.

Another point is that this may kill the atomic theory as we know it; remember well into the 20th century, people were writing of atoms as though they were only a useful imaginary mathematical concept, and ironically they were only fully accepted around the same time it was first being shown they were not, in fact, indivisible.