The Other de Broglie Wave

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Daniel Shanahan
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In his famous doctoral dissertation, de Broglie assumed that a massive particle is surrounded in its rest frame by a standing wave. He argued that as observed from another inertial frame this wave becomes the superluminal wave now known as the de Broglie wave. It is shown here that under a Lorentz transformation, such a standing wave becomes, not the de Broglie wave, but a modulated wave moving at the velocity of the particle. It is the modulation that has the superluminal velocity of the de Broglie wave and should be recognized as the true de Broglie wave. De Broglie's demonstrations relied, variously, on his "theorem of the harmony of phases", on a mechanical model, and on a spacetime diagram. It is shown that in each case the underlying wave was inadvertently suppressed. Identified as a modulation, the de Broglie wave acquires a physically reasonable ontology, avoiding the awkward device of recovering the particle velocity from a superposition of such waves. The deeper wave structure implied by this de Broglie wave must also impinge on such issues in quantum mechanics as the meaning of the wave function and the nature of wave-particle duality.

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