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The Gaussian Wavepacket

A useful integral
First, verify the completed square:

2
 2 2

u
y2
y
y
y2
u
y2
u2 2
u
i
2 =
2 i 2 2 =
+ iuy.
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2 2
[[Technical note: To assure convergence of the integral, we must have <e{2 } > 0. When we select a square
root of 2 , we will always take one with <e{} > 0.]]
( 
 Z +
2 )
 2 2


Z +
u
y
u
y2
exp i
du
exp
+ iuy du = exp 2
2
2
2
2

Now change variable to



x=

u
y
i
2
2


,

giving
Z

u2 2
+ iuy
exp
2



du =

y 2 /22

x2

2
dx

2 y2 /22
e
.

(1)

A somewhat less useful integral

x2 ex dx

Z
=

Z0
=

x2 ex dx

2
2

x(xex ) dx.

Integrate by parts using


u = x
du = dx

dv
v

= xex dx
2
= 21 ex

whence
Z

x2 ex dx

Z
=

x(xex ) dx

2
0


Z

2
2
xex
21 ex dx
0
0


Z
x2
1
= 2 00+ 2
e
dx
0

=
.
2
=

1
2

(2)

Static properties of a Gaussian wavepacket


a. Normalization:
(x; 0)

|(x; 0)|2

2
2
A
ex /2 ei(p0 /h)x

A2 x2 /2
e
Z

(3)
(4)

|(x; 0)|2 dx = A2

ex

/ 2

(5)

b. Mean and indeterminacy in x:


Z
Z +
A2 + x2 /2
xe
dx = 0
x|(x; 0)|2 dx =
h
xi =

so. . .

.
4

A =

h
x2 i =

dx
= A2

because integrand is odd.

x2 |(x; 0)|2 dx

=
=
=

A2

x2 ex

Z +
2 2

/ 2

dx

[[Use substitution u = x/. . . ]]

u2 eu du
[[Use A somewhat less useful integral (2). . . ]]

1
2
A2 2
= 2
=
.
2
2
2

And
2

(x)2 = h
x2 i h
xi = h
x2 i,
so

x = / 2.

(6)

c. Momentum representation of the wavefunction:


Z +
1

(p; 0) =
ei(p/h)x (x; 0) dx
2h
Z +
2
2
A
1

ex /2 ei((p0 p)/h)x dx.


=

2h

Now use the useful integral (1) with u = x, = 1/, and y = (p0 p)/h. Note that, as required,
<e{} > 0.

1
A 2 (p0 p)2 2 /2h2

(p; 0) =
e
2h 1/
r
(pp0 )2 2 /2h2
= A
e
.
(7)
h
2

d. Mean and indeterminacy in p:


0)|2 =
|(p;

A2 (pp0 )2 2 /h2
e
.
h

Its clear from inspection that this probability density is centered on p0 , and hence that hpi = p0 . If you
feel compelled to produce a more algorithmic proof, then simply evaluate h
p p0 i, which is easily seen to
vanish, to prove that hpi = p0 .
(p)2

=
=
=
=

h(
p p0 )2 i
Z
2 2
2
A2 +
(p p0 )2 e(pp0 ) /h dp
h

 3 Z +
2
A2
h
u2 eu du
h

 3
2
h

h2
A
=
.
h

2
2 2

So

[[Use u = (p p0 )/h. . . ]]

h
p = .
2

[[Once the momentum representation (7) is in hand, then these calculations are considerably easier than
evaluating things like


Z +
(x; 0)
h
pi =
(x; 0) ih
dx. ]]
x

Force-free motion of a Gaussian wavepacket


a. From the time development of energy eigenstates,
t) = e(i/h)E(p) (p;
0).
(p;
While from the properties of momentum wavefunctions,
Z +
1
dp.
(x) =
ei(p/h)x (p)
2h
Putting these together,
(x; t)

=
=

Z +
1
0) dp
ei(pxE(p)t)/h (p;
2
h
r Z +
2 2
2
1

A
ei(pxE(p)t)/h e(pp0 ) /2h dp.

h
2
h

Use
p0

= p p0
1 0
(p + p0 )2 t
2m

t
p0 
= p02
+ p0 x t + p0 x E(p0 )t
2m
m

px E(p)t =

(p0 + p0 )x

to get
(x; t)

=
=
=

r
 
 
Z

02 2
2
A
i(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h +
t
p0  1
exp i p02
e
+ p0 x t
ep /2h dp0
h
2m
m
h
2
h

r

 2

 0

Z +
i(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h

t
p0 
A
p

exp p02
+
i
x

e
exp
i
t
dp0
2
h
2m
h
h

m
2
h
2
h

r



 0

Z
p02
p0 
A
th
p
i(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h +

exp 2 2 + i
x t
e
exp i
dp0 ,
h
m
h

m
2
h
2
h

which suggests the substitution k = p0 /


h giving
r
 2

Z
n 
i(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h +
k
th
p0 o
(x; t) = A
exp
e
2 + i
exp ik x t
dk.
2
2
m
m

b. We recognize the quantity

p0
t,
m
which plucks our force-free motion heartstrings by reminding us of classical equations like
x

x(t) =

p0
t.
m

But the part the multiplies the k 2 doesnt pluck any heartstring of mine. Write the dimensionless quantity
=1+i

ht
m 2

so the equation is
+

 2 2 
n 
k
p0 o
dk.
exp
exp ik x t
2
m

The integral here is the useful integral (1) with u = k, = , and y = x (p0 /m)t. Note that, as
required, <e{2 } = 2 > 0. Using that integral, we get

r
i(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h 2 (x p0 t)2 /22
m
e
(x; t) = A
e
2

p0
2
2
1
= A ei(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h e(x m t) /2 .
(8)

(x; t)

= A

i(p0 xE(p0 )t)/h


e
2

c. We seek |(x; t)|2 = (x; t)(x; t). Start off by computing, for z = er/ , where r is real and
complex,

 

 

 
1
+
2<e{}
1
2

r/ r/
+
= exp r
= exp r
.
|z| = z z = e
e
= exp r

||2
Thus




A2
p0 2 1
2<e{}
|(x; t)| = exp (x t)
.
m 2 2
||2

2

But
||2 = 1 +

t
h
m 2

2
and

<e{} = 1

so
|(x; t)|2 =

p0
2
2
2
1
e(x m t) / || .
||

(9)

This expression has exactly the same Gaussian form as |(x; 0)|2 , equation (4), except that
xx

p0
t
m

and

where
|| =

1+

||,

t
h
m 2

2
.

Thus the probability density remains always a Gaussian, but it is centered on


h
xi t =

p0
t
m

(10)

and has position uncertainty

(x)t =
2


1+

h
t
m 2

2
.

(11)

The center of the wavepacket moves exactly like a classical particle, but the uncertainty spreads out.