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Everywhere and EverywhenAdventures in Physics and Philosophy$
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Nick Huggett

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195379518

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195379518.001.0001

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(p.204) 18 Quarticles
Everywhere and Everywhen

Nick Huggett (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Quantum mechanics, like relativity, is a pillar of contemporary physics, with remarkable, puzzling consequences. In these chapters some very simple ‘games’ – distributing prizes of different kinds – are used to explain the implications for ‘identity’. Classical particles have ‘Maxwell‐Boltzmann’ statistics, according to which swapping properties makes a difference; similarly for people, as it makes a difference if we swap bank accounts! Quantum particles with ‘Bose‐Einstein’ statistics (called bosons) or ‘Fermi‐Dirac’ statistics (fermions) are like dollars in bank accounts: if we swap $1 it makes no difference. Chapter 17 shows how Schrödinger used the prize games to argue that – like the dollars – bosons and fermions are not ‘identifiable things’. Chapter 18 extends the models to other possible quantum particles, arguing that quantum mechanics also restricts identity by restricting what states particles can possess together – for instance, Fermi's ‘exclusion principle’, that fermions must be in different states.

Keywords:   quantum mechanics, identity, Maxwell‐Boltzmann, Bose‐Einstein, Fermi‐Dirac, Schrödinger, Fermion, Boson, exclusion principle

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