# Abstract

We investigate the meaning of the wave function by analyzing the mass and charge density distributions of a quantum system. According to protective measurement, a charged quantum system has effective mass and charge density distributing in space, proportional to the square of the absolute value of its wave function. In a realistic interpretation, the wave function of a quantum system can be taken as a description of either a physical field or the ergodic motion of a particle. The essential difference between a field and the ergodic motion of a particle lies in the property of simultaneity; a field exists throughout space simultaneously, whereas the ergodic motion of a particle exists throughout space in a time-divided way. If the wave function is a physical field, then the mass and charge density will be distributed in space simultaneously for a charged quantum system, and thus there will exist gravitational and electrostatic self-interactions of its wave function. This not only violates the superposition principle of quantum mechanics but also contradicts experimental observations. Thus the wave function cannot be a description of a physical field but a description of the ergodic motion of a particle. For the later there is only a localized particle with mass and charge at every instant, and thus there will not exist any self-interaction for the wave function. Which kind of ergodic motion of particles then? It is argued that the classical ergodic models, which assume continuous motion of particles, cannot be consistent with quantum mechanics. Based on the negative result, we suggest that the wave function is a description of the quantum motion of particles, which is random and discontinuous in nature. On this interpretation, the square of the absolute value of the wave function not only gives the probability of the particle being found in certain locations, but also gives the probability of the particle being there. We show that this new interpretation of the wave function provides a natural realistic alternative to the orthodox interpretation, and its implications for other realistic interpretations of quantum mechanics are also briefly discussed.