Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois
We are pleased to report that a classic atomic-scale physics experiment -- the double-slit experiment -- has now been carried out on a macroscopic scale. We have demonstrated the wave/particle duality of a familiar, "everyday scale" phenomenon -- the stream of cars passing through the exit lanes of the Loyola University of Chicago parking garage.
Figure 1. The twin exit lanes of the parking garage.
Background: The Wave-Particle Duality
"Is it a wave or a particle?" For centuries, physicists have employed the "double-slit" experiment to answer this question about new and unexplained phenomena. Starting with Thomas Young’s 1810 measurement of the wavelength of light, and continuing with similar studies of subatomic particles in the early 20th century, the double-slit experiments all confirmed Louis deBroglie’s now-famous "wave-particle duality" hypothesis: that absolutely everything should show both kinds of properties -- wave and particle -- at one time or another.
The Auto-Slit Experiment
Until now, however, this wave/particle duality had been observed only for extremely tiny phenomena. It had not been demonstrated convincingly for large objects such as baseballs or bullets. Indeed, hardly anyone bothered trying until we came along.
Now, thanks to the foresight and insight of the campus sign painter at Loyola University of Chicago, we have direct evidence that automobiles also share this wondrous duality.
See Figure 1, which shows the twin exit lanes of the parking garage. The sign -- "USE BOTH EXITS WHEN LEAVING THE PARKING STRUCTURE" -- directs patrons of the campus parking ramp to exit via both lanes. We know from previous experiments that during this process the cars must travel as waves.
Observation shows that, without exception, the emerging vehicles are intact and have restored to their condition as particles.
This dual nature, this automotive wave/particle duality, is proof positive that nature continues to surprise and amaze us.
Some of the credit for this breakthrough must be given to my colleagues here in the Physics Department. The idea that the sign could be so interpreted (the so-called "Chicago Interpretation," also known as the "Far-From-Copenhagen Interpretation") came from C.M. Brodbeck. The photograph was taken by J.V. Mallow. The person pictured on the right is G.P. Ramsey (the author is on the left). We all of us owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the sign painter; however, as he did not grant us co-authorship on his sign, we feel it would be presumptuous to give him co-authorship on our paper.
_____________________This article is republished with permission from the November-December 2001 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!
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