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Deriving Schrödinger’s Wave Equation

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Among the tools of modern physics, the Schrdinger equation has been among the

most ontologically vague. It mathematically details the behavior of , but it gives us no

purchase on the question of its nature. The metaphysical ambiguity beneath has given

rise to dozens of interpretations of quantum mechanics, each starting from wildly

different assumptions about what the wave equation tells us about the world.

Schrdinger originally tried (unsuccessfully) to interpret as a charge density.i Max

Born subsequently interpreted it as a probability amplitude, whose absolute square is

equal to a probability density.ii To the dismay of every student, this definition stuck. A

probability amplitude is arguably just as ontologically inaccessible as the wavefunction

it is supposed to elucidate. This has become the elephant in the physics classroom. We

can lucidly talk about the amplitude of a probability wave, or the probability of finding

and amplitude, but it is not so easy to claim that you are being lucid when talking about a

probability amplitude.

One of the beautiful consequences of the assumption that the vacuum is a superfluid

is that it dissolves the vagueness of . If the vacuum is a superfluid, then we should

model it as an acoustic metric. This conditional carries us to the logical expectation that a

wave equation will be an intrinsic descriptor of any system that is internal to the vacuum.

It should be a descriptor of the state of the vacuum itself. A metric composed of particles

(molecules, atoms, quanta, etc.) which collectively contribute to the emergent notions of

a density field and a velocity field, necessarily has waves. These waves are analogous to

sound waves, and their propagation is a function of the compressibility of the medium.

It turns out that we can indirectly and directly use the assumption that the vacuum is a

superfluid (or a BEC) to derive Schrdingers wave equation. Indirectly this can be

achieved by elevating the attributes that follow from vacuum superfluidity into

fundamental guiding principles. In other words, once we recognize that superfluidity

suggests that energy conservation, de Broglie relations, and linearity will hold within the

superfluid vacuum, we can use those constraints to derive a wave equation.

To develop this derivation note that energy conservation can be expressed through the

Hamiltonian H, which is classically used to represent the total energy E of a particle in

terms of the sum of its kinetic energy T, and its potential energy V.

E=T+V=H

If a particle is restricted to one-dimensional motion its energy can be described as:

keep track of the fact that potential energy is a function of all the relative positions of the

particles (versus being a simple sum of the particles separate potential energies).

Consequently, the general equation becomes:

because in any acoustic metric the energy of any phonon (a collective excitation in the

mediums elastic arrangements) is proportional to the frequency (or angular frequency

= 2) of its corresponding quantum wave packet.

Furthermore, any wave can be associated with a particle such that, in one dimension,

the momentum p of the particle is related to the wavelength by:

metric, waves can be constructed via the superposition of sinusoidal plane waves.

Therefore, the superposition principle is expected to apply to the waves we mean to

characterize, and more generally to any acoustic metric.

With these attributes we can structure an equation that characterizes the state of the

vacuum over time, without abandoning ontological clarity as to what the wave function

is. We simply need to construct an equation that is capable of translating the possible

Hamiltonian of a systems particles (their possible kinetic and potential energies

constrained by the aforementioned characteristics of the system) into a function of the

state of the system .

To trace out the steps of that derivation we would be well advised to follow

Schrdingers brilliant insight and choose to express the phase of a plane wave in the

superfluid vacuum as a complex phase factor via:

Next we take the first order partial derivatives of this equation with respect to space

and time and we get:

When we combine this with our earlier expression for energy, this leads to:

This equation is exactly what Schrdinger came up with. Nevertheless, in this form it

is slightly incomplete. To capture the full range of possible metric evolutions this

equation must be augmented by relativistic corrections. Translating this into terms of our

treatment, we can say that the current formula does not allow for inter-particle

interactions between the quanta of space.

To directly derive the wave equation, in its complete form, we simply assume that the

vacuum is a BEC whose state can be described by the wavefunction of the condensate

. The particle density of this system would then be represented by

. If all of

the particles in this fluid have condensed to the ground state, then the total number of

atoms N in the system will be

using mean field theory, the energy E associated with the state

following expression:

takes on the

, and

fixing the number of particles in the system, we end up with the Gross-Pitaevskii

equation.

the inter-particle interactions.

Schrdingers original equation.

From this we see that it is possible to derive Schrdingers wave equation from first

principles. More significantly, if the assumption that the vacuum is a superfluid is correct,

then it offers us the unprecedented ability to ontologically access what the wave equation

means and where it comes from. The state of the vacuum is explicitly tied to this wave

equation because it behaves as a superfluid. In short, the wave equation characterizes

excitations in the periodicity of the mediums particles as the arrangements of those

quanta elastically wave about. It describes how the metric of the vacuum evolves by

detailing how distortions within it behave.

Moore, W.J. (1992). Schrdinger: Life and Thought. Cambridge University Press. p. 219.

ISBN 0-521-43767-9.

ii

Ibid p. 220.

iii

L. de Broglie, Recherches sur la thorie des quanta (Researches on the quantum theory), Thesis

(Paris), 1924; L. de Broglie, Ann. Phys. (Paris) 3, 22 (1925).

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