Pilot-Wave Hydrodynamics: Slit Experiments

This post is part of a collaborative series with FYP on pilot-wave hydrodynamics. Previous entries: 1) Introduction; 2) Chladni patterns; 3) Faraday instability; 4) Walking droplets; 5) Droplet lattices; 6) Quantum double-slit experiments

In quantum mechanics, the single and double-slit experiments are foundational. They demonstrate that light and elementary particles like electrons have wave-like and particle-like properties, both of which are necessary to explain the behaviors observed. Similarly, a hydrodynamic walker consists of both a particle and a wave, so, perhaps unsurprisingly, researchers tested them in both single-slit and double-slit experiments.

When a walker passes through a single-slit (top row), it’s deflected in a seemingly random direction due to its waves interacting with the slit. But if you watch enough walkers traverse the slit, you can put together a statistical representation of where the walker will get deflected. Compare that with the results for a series of photons passing through a slit one-at-a-time, and you’ll see a remarkable match-up.

If you test the walker instead with two slits, the droplet can only pass through one slit, but its accompanying wave passes through both (bottom row). Let enough walkers through the system one-by-one, and they, like their photonic cousins, build up interference fringes that match the quantum experiment. Diffraction and interference are only a couple of the walkers’ tricks, however. In the next posts, we’ll take a look at another analog to quantum behavior: tunneling.

(Image and research credits: Couder et al., source, selected papers 1, 2; images courtesy of E. Fort)

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