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Quantum Mantras

Quantum Mantras

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Published by Frank Munley
"Quantum Mantras" is a short outline of basic quantum mechanics. I wrote it as a supplement to the main text I used when teaching a one-semester undergraduate course in the subject. That text was P.C.W. Davies' "Quantum Mechanics," a short book packed with all the information needed to be fluent in the subject. I used it in my class because it was the only book that allowed me to take students in one semester through all of basic quantum mechanics, including Dirac notation, matrix representations of spin, and electron transitions in atoms. I supplemented Davies' book by going into detail into several topics, particularly electron transitions. Updates of this post will be made in the future.
"Quantum Mantras" is a short outline of basic quantum mechanics. I wrote it as a supplement to the main text I used when teaching a one-semester undergraduate course in the subject. That text was P.C.W. Davies' "Quantum Mechanics," a short book packed with all the information needed to be fluent in the subject. I used it in my class because it was the only book that allowed me to take students in one semester through all of basic quantum mechanics, including Dirac notation, matrix representations of spin, and electron transitions in atoms. I supplemented Davies' book by going into detail into several topics, particularly electron transitions. Updates of this post will be made in the future.

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Published by: Frank Munley on Jun 05, 2011
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06/07/2011

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1
QUANTUM MANTRASReview of and supplement to P.C.W. Davies,
Quantum Mechanics
(1984)Frank Munley, June 2011
 
CHAPTER 1
:
Preliminary concepts
1. Quantum mechanics is “weird” in the sense that it describes properties of matter that don’t seem tomatch and indeed contradict what we observe or are habituated to at the human level. One hallmark of thisweirdness is “wave-particle duality,” i.e., depending on the experimental circumstances, it is sometimesconvenient to treat a physical system as having wave properties, and at other times as having particle properties. How something can simultaneously behave like a wave and a particle is counterintuitive to theextreme. For example, just as a beam of light shows an interference pattern when it passes through twoslits in an opaque screen, so an electron beam exhibits an interference pattern even though electrons behavelike particles in many situations.
The De Broglie relationship between the particle property of momentum and wave property wavelength is:
 p
=
h
/
=
h
, where
h
=
h
/ 2
,
h
= Planck’s constant,and
=
2
/
.2. Another manifestation of wave-particle duality is the relationship between
energy and frequency
:
 E 
=
h
=
h
. Although
 
 E 
=
h
holds for both a material particle which has a rest mass and a photon whoserest mass is zero, an important difference arises in the relationship between the wave number 
and thefrequency
for these two particles. For a photon,
=
kv
, i.e.,
=
kc
where
c
= speed of light, while for a material particle,
=
(
h
/2
m
)
2
. This important difference leads to the Schrödinger equation for material particles stated below.3.
Uncertainty in frequency
: Frequency is most directly measured by counting the number of wave peaks passing a fixed point. If the counting lasts a time
, and
 N 
peaks are counted, then
=
 N 
/
. But theminimal uncertainty in the number is 1, so
"
=
1/
. Measuring frequency by counting:
Δν
= 1/
τ
, where
τ
 is the time taken to count.
can also be a measure of the “uncertainty in time”
"
.4. Items 2 and 3 lead to the
Heisenberg uncertainty relation for energy and time is:
"
 E 
"
#
h
, so it isimpossible to carry out perfectly accurate measurements of both energy and time interval over which themeasurement is made.5.
is the
wave function
which can be used to describe the energy, position, momentum, etc. of amaterial particle. All measurements give real numbers, but
is generally complex. So by itself,
is notobservable; but
2
links us to physical reality:
 In one dimension,
(
 x
,
)
2
dx
= probability that a particle can be found (when a positionmeasurement is made) between x and x + dx. In three dimensions,
(
,
)
2
= probability that a particle can be found in the volume element 
about the position
.
 N.B.:
 
 
is a common notation for a 3-D volume element and has nothing to do withcounting time.)
 
The probability that a particle can be found in a limited region is givenby the integral of 
(
,
)
2
over that region. In particular, in one dimension,
the probability that a particle can be found between x 
1
and x 
2
is
(
 x
,
)
2
dx
 x
1
 x
2
 # 
.
Since probabilities should sum to 1,
 
(
 x
,
)
2
dx
=
1
 x
1
 x
2
 # 
(or, in 3-D,
(
,
)
2
=
1
 x
1
 x
2
 $ 
 )
 
withthe integration carried out over all space. In this case, we say the wave function is
normalized 
.
 6. Consider a particle localized on a one-dimensional line in a region of size
 
"
 x 
. Since the particle also hasa wave nature, the question arises: What range of wavelengths have to be added together to form a wavefunction, or in this context a localized wave
 packet 
, of size
"
 x 
? A rather straightforward application of Fourier analysis gives us the answer. To suggest how this works, suppose the particle is known to be in a
 
2one-dimensional “line box” of size
"
 x 
and we want to determine what range of wavelengths that arerequired to cancel outside the box but add together in the box. This can be done precisely using Fourier analysis, but we can “guesstimate” the range of wavelengths needed as follows.The diagram shows the one-dimensional box containing the particle. The wave function has theconstant value
0
inside the box and zero outside. Also shown are three sinusoidal waves, each waverepresenting a particular possible momentum of the particle if the momentum is measured. The figuresuggests that the waves add together inside the box but outside sometimes add but sometimes cancel.These waves help out, because they are all non-zero from
 –L/2
to
+L/2
and tend to cancel outside. In other words, waves with
#
L
/ 2
, if combined in the correct proportions as determined by Fourier analysis, can produce a wave function which is equal to
0
between
 –L/2
and
+L/2
. Contrast these waves with shorter-wavelength waves:As the diagram suggests, these waves tend to cancel out almost everywhere inside the box, and are largelyunnecessary to produce the desired
. But they can’t be completely ignored, because combined in proper  proportion, as determined by Fourier analysis, they help the larger waves to cancel outside the box and to produce the constant
0
in the box.A precise Fourier analysis yields the amplitude as a function of wavelength in order to achieve precisely the desired
. It is more convenient to do the analysis in terms of the amplitude as a function of wave number 
rather than wavelength. The following diagram shows the result, where
 A
(
) is theamplitude for 
 L
= 1 (and
0
= 1):
 
 x
0
 
-L/2 L/2
2
/
 L
 
 A
(
)
 
 x
0
 
The particle is equally likely to be foundanywhere between –L/2 and L/2. The probability of being anywhere in the boxis constant from point to point, so the probability of being between
 x
and
 x +dx
is constant: Prob(
 x, x+dx) =
|
ψ 
0
|
2
dx.
 
-L/2 L/2
 
3In general, for a 1-dimensional box between – 
 L
/2 and +
 L
/2,
 A
(
)
=
2
0
2
sin(
kL
/2)
, and
0
=
1/
L
. As the graph shows, the greatest amplitude is for waves between
±
2
/
 L
for a spread of 
4
/
 L
. But the amplitude is small as one goes to the limits of this range, so a reasonable estimate of thespread or uncertainty in
is about half of this, or 
2
/
 L
. Since
 p
=
h
, then
"
 p
=
h
"
#
2
h
/
 L
=
h
/
 L
.But the particle can be anywhere inside the box with equal probability, so
 L
is a measure of the uncertaintyin the position of the box, i.e.,
"
 x
=
L
.
Therefore,
"
 p
"
 x
#
h
.In our box example, the particle is free and just bounces inside the box between its ends. In amore complicated situation, the particle might be on a rubber band while bouncing back and forth, or subject to some other type of potential energy function. In any case, the uncertainty relation is an order-of-magnitude estimate, and the more general formulation of the uncertainty relation is framed in terms of 
h
:The
Heisenberg uncertainty relation for position and momentum:
"
 x
"
 p
#
h
.The significance is that a more accurate measurement of 
 p
creates a greater uncertainty in
 x
, and vice versa.Most significantly, perfectly accurate measurements of position and momentum are impossible to carry out:the product of their uncertainties must always be
h
.7.
must be single-valued, well-behaved (can’t blow up), and it and its first derivative (or gradient in 3-D)must be continuous.
One exception to the latter rule: where the potential is infinite, just set
=0.
8. Just as particles can flow from one place to another, so the probability of the particles being found at one place or another can flow. The “probability current density” in one dimension is:
*)*(2),(
"#"#
=
mi
h
r j
.9. The weighted average of something is just a sum of the values it can have times the probability of having the values. E.g., in one dimension,
 x
n
=
#
 x
n
dx
$%%
 & 
.
10.
can be determined from the
Schrödinger Equation
(
(
r
) is the potential affecting the particle of mass
m
):
im
!!
=+
"#
hh
)(2
22
r
 
(A KEY EQUATION!)
 CHAPTER 2: Wave mechanics I
1. The Schrödinger Equation is separable into time and space parts. The
space part of 
ψ 
r,
t)
is u(
) or justu:
"
h
2
2
m
#
2
u
+
(
)
u
=
Eu
 
(ANOTHER KEY EQUATION!)
 This equation is a “recipe” for grinding out allowed energy values (or 
eigenvalue
) for a particle bound in a potential. The wave function associated with each energy eigenvalue is called an
energy eigenfunction
.2. When a particle is
free
, the allowed energy values in the Schrödinger equation are
continuous
; if the particle is
bound
(e.g., in an infinite or finite square well, by a harmonic force, etc.), the energy values are
discrete
 —only special values, E
1
, E
2
, …etc., are allowed.3. The time part of the Schrödinger equation tells us that
h
/
)(),(
iEt 
e xu x
!
=
for a particle in a well-defined energy state. Therefore, |
ψ
|
2
= |u|
2
and
to normalize u is to normalize
ψ
.

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