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Particle-wave duality: a dichotomy between symmetry and asymmetry

By Joan A. Vaccaro


Symmetry plays a central role in many areas of modern physics. Here we show that it also underpins the dual particle and wave nature of quantum systems. We begin by noting that a classical point particle breaks translational symmetry whereas a wave with uniform amplitude does not. This provides a basis for associating particle nature with asymmetry and wave nature with symmetry. We derive expressions for the maximum amount of classical information we can have about the symmetry and asymmetry of a quantum system with respect to an arbitrary group. We find that the sum of the information about the symmetry (wave nature) and the asymmetry (particle nature) is bounded by log(D) where D is the dimension of the Hilbert space. The combination of multiple systems is shown to exhibit greater symmetry and thus more wavelike character. In particular, a class of entangled systems is shown to be capable of exhibiting wave-like symmetry as a whole while exhibiting particle-like asymmetry internally. We also show that superdense coding can be viewed as being essentially an interference phenomenon involving wave-like symmetry with respect to the group of Pauli operators.Comment: 20 pages, 3 figure

Topics: Quantum Physics
Year: 2012
DOI identifier: 10.1098/rspa.2011.0271
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