Talk about taking a tough shot. Physicists have, for the first time, been able to image the quantum workings of electrons in hydrogen atoms, an advance that could open the door to a deeper understanding of the quantum world.
Snapping a picture of the inside of an atom – the electrons, the protons, the neutrons – is no easy task. Quantum mechanics makes it virtually impossible to pin down these subatomic particles.
Instead of having the ability to describe where a particle is, quantum theory provides a description of its whereabouts called a wave function.
Wave functions work like sound waves, except that whereas the mathematical description of a sound wave defines the motion of molecules in air at a particular place, a wave function describes the probability of finding the particle.
Physicists can theoretically predict what a wave function is like, but measuring a wave function is very hard because they are exquisitely fragile.
In another bit of quantum weirdness, most attempts to directly observe wave functions actually destroy them in a process called collapse.
Written By: Nathan Collinscontinue to source article at stuff.co.nz