Let us now consider an alternative explanation of the double-slit experiment, however,
due to Richard Feynman (who, by the way, was born in Queens!). This
explanation is published in his 1965 book, *Quantum Mechanics
and Path Integrals*. Feynman's explanation is closer in spirit to
a classical-like picture, yet it still represents a radical departure
from classical mechanics. Feynman postulated that electrons could
still behave as particle in a double-slit experiment. The twist is
that the particles do not follow definite paths, as they would if
they were classical particles. Rather, they can trace out
a myriad of possible paths that might differ considerably
from the path that would be predicted by classical mechanics.
In fact, electrons initialized in the same manner, will
follow different paths if they are allowed to wend their way
through the double-slit apparatus! This is illustrated in the
figure below:

Since the electron can follow any path and will follow different
paths in different realizations of the experiment, physical quantities
must be obtained by summing over *all* possible paths that the
electron can follow. In order to carry out this sum, Feynman
assigned a *weight* or *importance* to each path
in the sum over paths. Since each path takes the electron from
the source to a point on the screen (call this point , where
varies over the legnth of the screen) in a time , the
probability associated with each path can only depend
on and . If is fixed, the can only depend
on . Feynman proposed that each path could be assigned
a quantity called the *action* , where
has the following properties:

- 1.
- varies only minimally for paths near the path that classical mechanics would predict the electron should follow.
- 2.
- varies increasingly dramatically as the paths differ increasingly from the classical path.

where and . The exponential of a complex argument has a simple expression in terms of common trigonometric functions:

Thus, we can also write as

however, it is generally easier to work with the exponential directly.

It is important to note that is a complex number.
An amplitude is related to an actual probability
by taking the absolute value squared of the amplitude.
Thus, if there were only one path with amplitude ,
the probability that the electron would follow that path is

as expected. This is also the probability that the electron will end up at a point on the screen, since the single path takes the particle to a single definite point . However, in Feynman's picture, the electron can follow any path. Thus, in order to compute the probability that the particle ends up at a point on the screen, we must sum over

where is the amplitude for a particle path. Since we are summing over many oscillating sines and cosines, there will be an interference pattern, meaning that the paths effectively interfere with each other. Indeed, the intensity will be proportional to the probability: . In fact, if we were to carry out this sum over paths (no simple feat, by the way), we would obtain an interference pattern that agrees with experiment.

Generally, a probability amplitude is a generalization of the
square root of a probability that allows the amplitude to
be a complex number. If is a probability, and
is the associated probability amplitude, then if
were restricted to be real, then there would be only
two possible values of , *i.e.,*
and . If we let be
complex, the relation between and is

and there is an infinite number of square roots of . To see this, consider writing as

where is any number in the interval . If we can show that , then it will follow that any value of is allowable, which means that the number of possible amplitudes is infinite. The complex conjugate of is

and we find

Now, suppose we have two interfering paths with amplitudes
and (they should depend on , but for notational
simplicity, we will suppress the dependence). The total
amplitude is , and the corresponding
probability is , which gives

Let and , where and are real numbers. Then

The last term is known as the interference term. The presence of the cosine in that time, which oscillates, suggests the oscillation in the interference pattern observed on the screen.

At this point, several comments are in order. It is tempting to try
to impose either the wave-like picture or the many-paths picture
on the experiment. Indeed, both of these pictures provide a useful
physical picture that helps us understand the outcome of the
experiment. In the wave-like picture, we can think of each
electron that leaves the source as feeling the presence
of both slits simultaneously, and therefore interfering with
itself (rather than with other electrons). In the many-paths
picture, each electron follows not one path in the path sum
but *all* possible paths at once, and these paths
interfere with each other. However, the infuriating thing about
quantum mechanics is that we have no way of knowing what
is taking place between the source and the detector. All we
have is the observation that there is an interference pattern.
Feynman's picture makes this rather manifest. The implications
of his picture can be summarized as

- 1.
- Even within a particle-like interpretation of the
experiment, particles do
*not*have predictable positions and momenta along the paths. The reason for this is that the paths, themselves, are not predictable by any rule as they are in classical mechanics! - 2.
- If we could devise an experiment for measuring the position of the electron on the screen, we would find that different repetitions of the experiment on one electron initialized the same way would have different outcomes.

The rationalizations of the three experiments we have
examined, blackbody radiation, the photoelectric effect,
and electron diffraction, leads us to conclude that
classical mechanics, with its deterministic, predictable
view of the universe, must be overthrown in favor of
a much more radial theory, now known as *quantum
mechanics*. It is interesting
to note that the idea of probabilistic outcomes
of experiments and the fact that we can ONLY predict
the probabilities, lead Albert Einstein ultimately
to reject quantum mechanics, saying: ``Gott spielt nicht
Würfel'' (``God does not play dice'').