So in this episode we have the interesting job of trying to get to the bottom of the famous mystery of the Wave Particle duality, and seeing if along the way we can’t bust a few myths about it. We’re also aiming to better understand whether Quantum mechanics can or can’t help us get closer to a complete theory of reality or not, and hopefully find out of it can give us some clues about how matter and consciousness are related. We’re also going to trace the developments and discoveries in Quantum Theory throughout its relatively young 100 or so year history. 

So who better to speak to about all this than physicist Dr Jon Butterworth one of Britain’s most experienced sub-atomic particle physicists and a professor who’s much loved for his gift of making physics accessible.

Jon was born in Manchester but is currently a Professor of Physics at UCL in London and he’s worked for years a the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. He tells the story their long search for the Higgs Boson particle at CERN In his book ‘Smashing Physics’ if you’re interested. He often speaks publicly about particle physics, with some brilliant talks that you can find on Your Tube at the Royal Institution, and he also appears regularly on TV including the BBC’s Newsnight, Channel 4 and Al Jazeera. His new book ‘Atomland’, which we’ll be talking about came out in 2018.


In this episode we discuss:

03:40 Jon’s book Atomland and the history of quantum mechanical discoveries throughout the 20th Century

05:00 High Frequency and high energy corresponds to higher resolution and allows you to see smaller things

07:40 Particles which, until now cannot be broken down into any smaller components, they’re provisionally fundamental

09:10 Gravity, space and time have still not been incorporated into the standard model of Quantum Mechanics 

11:15 The Uncertainty Principle

17:40 The Wave Particle Duality Explained

22:30 Quantum Electro Dynamics, the Copenhagen interpretation and the inherent randomness in nature

28:20 James Clarke-Maxwell, Faraday, humility in the face of the unknown and different ideas of ‘clean’ maths and explanations changing over time

31:00 The Many Worlds Interpretation

33:15 the division between observer and observed and wave function ‘collapse’

33:50 Schroedinger's Cat and the observer interfering in a system

41:00 The mathematical explanation of Quantum Field Theory; unpacking what we mean by waves and particles

42:20 Matter is energy

46:30 Working quantum level up rather than quantising down form the classical world

52:45 Jon’s opinion on the implications of the Wave Particle Duality

54:30 Jon’s response to famous quotes on consciousness by physicists

57:52 Wheeler’s ‘participatory universe’ and the things that are real are only definable relative to other things

59:30 Einstein’s ‘Wave function of the universe’ solution to the observer/observed paradox

1:02:30 Implications of Entanglement (See Episode #4 for the full episode on Entanglement and non-locality) 


Jon's Website 'Life in Physics'

Jon's Blog

Jon Butterworth 'Smashing Physics'

Jon Butterworth 'Atomland' 

Richard Feynman 'QED'

Jon’s Youtube channel with all the Royal Institution talks and others