Date of Completion


Embargo Period


Major Advisor

Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri

Associate Advisor

Ronald Mallett

Associate Advisor

Juha Javanainen

Field of Study



Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Quantum Mechanics (QM) represents the currently best mathematical theory and computational tool available to quantitatively model the outcomes of measurements in the microscopic world. However, the various interpretations of the theory, including the currently dominant Copenhagen Interpretation, remain actively debated and contested in mainstream scientific journals. This puts us in the curious position of having a theory which evidently maps a significant portion of physical reality, but we still do not fully understand the relationship between its mathematical constituents and physical reality. This thesis develops a more intuitive understanding of QM based on the physical interaction processes occurring within our detectors. Using a semi- classical point of view, I first present a process-based derivation of the black-body spectrum, the mathematically accurate description of which, as first accomplished by Planck, led to the development of modern QM. I further demonstrate that ignoring interpretations like the Copenhagen Interpretation and focusing on measurable light-matter interaction processes provides an alternative productive way forward. I focus specifically on superposition effects created by multiple electro- magnetic waves simultaneously stimulating appropriate detectors, by mapping the interaction processes that result in the reported data. As a result I present a simple model of the detector signal that incorporates some of the important physical processes which do date have suffered from a lack of attention. One key observation of this discussion corresponds to the fact that in the linear domain wave amplitudes by themselves do not interact to generate observable data - the response to the joint amplitude stimulation of a detector and the ensuing energy absorption on the other hand do represent observables. Much of the confusion as well as many of QM’s paradoxes and contentious issues inherent in various interpretations of the theory resolve automatically when we remain focused on the interaction processes that give rise to the measurable superposition effect, rather than the unobservable superposition principle that the standard interpretations struggle to give meaning to. Demanding, as I do in this thesis, a close correspondence between our mathematical symbols and physical quantities, as well as between mathematical operations and physical processes demonstrates that QM maps more of physical reality than what the Copenhagen Interpretation allows us to extract from the QM formalism.