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7 vues62 pagesNotes on quantum physics on MIT

Jun 15, 2018

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Notes on quantum physics on MIT

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7 vues62 pagesNotes on quantum physics on MIT

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Lecture 1

Introduction to Superposition

Assigned Reading:

E&R 16,7 , 21,2,3,4,5 , 3all NOT 4all !!!

Li. 1all , 23,5,6 NOT 2-4!!!

Ga. 12,3,4 NOT 1-5!!!

Sh. 3

I want to start by describing to you, the readers, a particular series of experiments. These

experiments involve electrons. They are true, and in my mind, they are the most unsettling

experiments ever done.

Let us focus on 2 properties of electrons. For the sake of this discussion, let us call them color

and hardness. An empirical fact is that the only observable colors are individually “black”

and “white”, while the only observable hardnesses are individually “hard” and “soft”. There

are no other observable values that these properties can take, as no one has ever seen any

other such value. What I mean is that it is possible to build a box that measures color or

hardness, and the value of the property being measured can be inferred from the position at

which the box spits out one or the other output.

As an aside, let me brieﬂy describe how these boxes work. The details don’t

particularly matter, as people have built analogous experiments for other objects

like silver atoms, neutrons, and other things, using diﬀerent mechanisms inside

the box, and yielding identical results. To be concrete, though, here is what is

inside the boxes: a magnetic ﬁeld B = B0 ez splits electrons by color, such that

electrons of one color are sent in one direction toward a screen, and electrons of

the other color are sent in another direction toward the same large screen. The

electrons of each color always land in the same positions, and there are always

only 2 such landing locations. Similarly, a magnetic ﬁeld B = B0 ex could split

electrons by their hardness value. We will discuss later why electrons do this, but

2 8.04: Lecture 1

empirically, they do, and this matters to us now. The boxes mentioned earlier are

these devices inside boxes, so an input of electrons into a box gets split into one

direction or the other based on the value a given electron has for the property

being measured. I am calling these properties “color” and “hardness” rather

than “magnetic ﬁeld-induced splitting” or something like that to emphasize that

lots of systems, and not just the particular one described here, exhibit these

behaviors. Also, using technical names brings in more confusing and distracting

jargon, so those will be discussed later.

A key property of these boxes is their repeatability: if electrons all of a certain value of a given

property are fed into a box measuring the value of that property, all of the electrons coming

out will retain the original value for that measured property. For instance, if electrons that

are all black are fed into a color box for measurement, the output will have all black and no

white electrons.

Another question is one of correlation. For instance, being male and being a bachelor are

correlated. So are color and hardness correlated? Well, this is easy to test with boxes!

Empirically, it is found that if one property is measured and all the electrons with a single

value of that property have the other property measured, the value of the other property is

found to be probabilistically evenly split. For example, if electrons that are known to all be

soft have their color measured, half will be black and half will be white; similarly, if electrons

that are known to all be black have their hardness measured, half will be hard and half will

be soft.

Hence, measuring the value of one property gives no predictive power whatsoever for a

subsequent measurement of the other property. This means that hardness and color are

persistent and uncorrelated. This lets us predict the results of a lot of similar experiments

too.

8.04: Lecture 1 3

2. By previous experiments, electrons exit the hardness box as half of them being hard

and half of them being soft.

4 8.04: Lecture 1

3. The half that are soft reach the additional color box, and the previous measurements

found that the electrons entering this box were white and soft.

4. As a measurement of color is repeatable, these electrons should always emerge as white

and never as black.

Our prediction is that all the electrons entering the second color box will exit as white, and

none will exit as black.

This is completely and utterly wrong! In fact, half of the electrons that were previously

measured to only be white as white, and half now exit as black! The same goes for any

other pair of results from the ﬁrst two boxes, if hardness and color were interchanged, et

cetera. Apparently, the presence of the hardness box tampers with color, because without

the hardness box, repeatability would ensure that all the originally measured white electrons

would come out white again. This is suspicious!

You may be asking, what property determines which ﬂip? Well, to check, we could monitor

all possible physical properties of electrons entering the device and check for correlations.

Experimentally, none have been found! This means that those electrons that ﬂip values for

a property and those that do not are indistinguishable in the beginning.

8.04: Lecture 1 5

You may now be asking, are the boxes just badly built? No! We could use many diﬀerent

materials and technologies, yet all would give the same evenly split statistics. What is

striking is not just that we cannot build a box for one property that does not disturb the

other property, but we cannot even change the statistics as much as 1 part in 1010 from equal

probabilities!

A curious consequence of this is that we cannot build a reliable box to simultaneously measure

both color and hardness.

More precisely, we can try to do this, but the results would be neither persistent nor repeat

able. For instance, in the displayed apparatus, if the hardness and color are measured of the

output that should be hard and black, all are hard, but only half are black.

Thus, simultaneously measuring hardness and color is fundamentally disallowed! The general

statement of this is the uncertainty principle, which is the idea that some measurable physical

properties of real systems are incompatible with each other in the way that has been described

thus far.

You might now be thinking that this just applies to the hardness and color of electrons.

Actually, every object has similar properties, including me, you, and a paper copy of these

notes! These properties hold true every time they are tried with new systems, though it is

simply easier to test these with electrons.

This has worked thus far, but let us go deeper. Consider the following device, with individual

mirrors to change the direction of particle paths, and with combined mirrors to make two

paths coincide.

We can test the operation of the individual and combined mirrors by checking whether it

preserves the values of a given property from the input at the output. Now let us run

some experiments with this apparatus. These are quite straightforward but constitute good

preparation for making predictions for more complicated experiments later.

6 8.04: Lecture 1

First, with the individual mirrors changing the directions of output paths from a hardness

box, let us send in white electrons and measure the output of a hardness box whose input is

the output of the combined mirror.

What do we expect? We just need to follow the electrons! Half take the hard output path,

and half take the soft output path. Those that take the hard path exit as hard, while those

that take the soft path exit as soft, so the ﬁnal output should have a measurement of half

of the electrons as hard and half as soft. Indeed, this is empirically correct!

Second, let us send in hard electrons and measure the color at the end.

What do we expect? Every electron takes the hard path, so the color box input is always

hard. Then, feeding hard electrons into the color box yields half as black and half as white.

8.04: Lecture 1 7

Third, let us send in white electrons and measure the color at the end.

What do we expect? Putting white electrons into the hardness box yields half as hard and

half as soft. Of the hard electrons on the hard path, measurement of color should yield half

as black and half as white. The same goes for the soft electrons on the soft path. Adding

these two yields that half should be black and half should be white again. Of course, apart

from the presence of mirrors, this should not be too diﬀerent from the situation of a hardness

box between two color boxes, so we cannot expect much else. Yet this is empirically wrong!

What we measure is all the electrons being white; this is very odd! So what is going on?

Before running further experiments, let us make a moving absorptive wall for each path.

8 8.04: Lecture 1

Having a given wall “out” means the system is unchanged from before. Having a given wall

“in” means that path is blocked.

Fourth, let us send in white electrons and measure the color at the end while having a wall

in the soft path.

We expect that the overall output will decrease by half. Also, if the wall is out, we get all

white electrons at the output. That said, a wall in the soft path should not half an eﬀect

on electrons in the hard path, given that the hard path could ultimately be many millions

of kilometers away. Hence, we expect half as many electrons to exit, and all of them should

be white. Empirically, though, while the overall output is indeed down by half, once again

half of the electrons are white and half are black! The same would occur if the wall was in

the hard path instead!

Now we are in deep trouble. Let us consider an electron inside the apparatus, with all the

walls out. We know it will exit the color box as white with full conﬁdence. So which route

did it take?

Did it take the hard or soft path individually? That cannot be, as the output in either case

is half white and half black. Did it take both? That cannot be, because the electron can

always be measured to travel on one path or another and not on both at the same time. Did

it take no path at all? That cannot be, because putting in both walls removes all output.

What the heck is going on? What we are facing is that for all electrons in the apparatus,

the route they take is not an individual path, not both paths, and not no path at all. There

do not appear to be any other logical possibilities, so what are they doing anyway?

If the experiments are accurate and the arguments correct, the electrons are in fact doing

8.04: Lecture 1 9

something we have never dreamed of before and for which we do not at the moment have

any words. Electrons have modes of moving or modes of being, which are unlike anything

we have discussed thus far. This is also true of molecules, bacteria, and other macroscopic

objects, though the eﬀects are harder to detect. Physicists call such modes as being deﬁned

by superposition, which for now means “we have no clue what is going on”.

In the context of our previous experiments, an initially white electron inside the apparatus

with all walls out is not hard, not soft, not both, and not neither, but is in a superposition of

the states of being hard and soft. This is why we cannot meaningfully say that an electron

has given deﬁnite values of color and hardness. This is not because our boxes are crude or

because we are ignorant (though both may incidentally be true). There is a deeper reason:

having a deﬁnite value for one property implies not having a deﬁnite value but instead being

in a superposition of values for the other property. Every electron exits a particular box

as having one value or the other for the measured property, but not every electron is in a

state of one value or the other for that property. It can be in a superposition of the two

values, with the probability that we subsequently measure it to have one value or the other

depending on the details of the superposition. For instance, an electron that is white is in

an equal superposition of being hard and soft, as the probability of measuring each value of

hardness is equal.

To build a better deﬁnition of superposition than “we have no clue what is going on” requires

a new language. That is the language of quantum mechanics, whose underpinnings will be

the topic of 8.04. No matter how we describe it though, superposition is really weird, but

true.

If all of this staggers your intuition, that is because your intuition was honed by throwing

spears, putting bread in a toaster, and playing with Rubik’s cubes, all of which involve things

things so big that quantum eﬀects are not noticeable. Hence, you can safely and consistently

ignore them when, for instance, you are wrestling with lions. As a friend of mine says, you

don’t need to understand quantum gravity to cook soup.

However, when we work in very diﬀerent regimes, like in the atom, there is no reason for

human-scale intuition to continue to be a reliable guide, and indeed, it is not! It is not

electrons that are messed up; it is our intuition that is messed up. And this is the goal of

8.04: we will step beyond the scale of daily experiences to develop an intuition for electrons,

atoms, and superposition.

MIT OpenCourseWare

http://ocw.mit.edu

Spring 2013

For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms.

8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 2

Experimental Facts of Life

Assigned Reading:

E&R 16,7 , 21,2,3,4,5 , 3all NOT 4all !!!

Li. 1all , 23,5,6 NOT 2-4!!!

Ga. 12,3,4 NOT 1-5!!!

Sh. 3

• electrons

– Cathode rays in CRT monitors make bright spots. If they can be sprayed in such

a manner, they must exist.

– Alternatively, cloud chamber tracks can be observed.

• nuclei

– α particles shot into atoms occasionally ﬂy back, as per the experiments of Ruther

ford, Geiger, Marsden, and others.

– Also, they are collided at places like the RHIC by people like Prof. Busza. If they

can be collided, they must exist.

We also know that classically, atomic orbits are unstable. In spite of this, we are compelled

to say the following.

We also know from our previous discussions of color and hardness the following.

As an aside, hard scattering to detect dense cores did not end with Rutherford,

Geiger, and Marsden. Similar experiments in the 1960s of electrons oﬀ of protons

showed that protons are made of 3 dense parts each with fractional (relative to

the electron) charge, called quarks. This earned Kendall and Friedman of MIT

and Taylor of Stanford the 1990 Nobel Prize.

2 8.04: Lecture 2

Balmer noticed by being a little clever (but mostly obsessed) that spectral emission lines

followed the formula

−1

4

λn ≈ (3646 angstrom) · 1 − 2 for n ∈ {3, 4, 5, . . .} . (0.1)

n

λ−1 = R · (n−2 −2

1 − n2 ) for ni ∈ Z, n2 > n1 (0.2)

where R is the Rydberg constant dependent on the particular element but independent of

the emission series. Where did that come from? 1

measure a current I because light is liberating electrons from the metal in what is known

as the photoelectric eﬀect, so we tune the voltage ΔV to get I = 0. We expect that a

more intense beam makes the electron more energetic, as the energy is proportional to the

intensity A2 , and K ≈ qe ΔV , so ΔV needs to be bigger to make I = 0. We also expect this

to be generally independent of ν.

varies linearly with ν, and there exists a minimum ν below which no electrons are liberated

at any A!

1

Editor’s note: where did that come from? I mean, am I supposed to explain the reason for the spectra

right here and now, or leave it as an open question for readers to ponder?

8.04: Lecture 2 3

Einstein’s interpretation of this is that light comes in packets of deﬁnite energy E = hν, the

intensity is proportional to the number of such packets, and the kinetic energy of an electron

liberated from a metal by light is K = hν − W . A plot of the electron kinetic energy versus

the light frequency yields a straight line of slope h, which is called the Planck constant.

Another quantity I deﬁned by h = 2πI is much more often used in quantum mechanics, and

while this is technically called the Dirac constant, it is often just called the Planck constant

exactly because I is used so much more often than h in calculations. This will be seen later

on.

The consequences of this include that the intensity determines the rate of electron liberation,

but for ν <

Wh , no electrons can be liberated regardless of intensity. Furthermore, you know

E = cp from 8.02 or 8.022, λν = c from 8.03, and E = hν from Einstein’s model. Therefore,

p =

λh .

This means that the discrete packets of light with wavelength λ have a momentum

Why is this weird? Well, we know that light is a wave; apart from what has been taught in

4 8.04: Lecture 2

8.02 or 8.022, 8.03, and 8.033, the double-slit experiment seems fairly convincing!

One thing to ask is, where is the light when it hits the wall? In fact, it is everywhere, as it is

8.04: Lecture 2 5

not localized. But the intensity shows an interference pattern. This implies that amplitudes,

rather than intensities, add.

Let us try to investigate the fringe widths in the interference pattern further. Let us suppose

that light from the two slits start in phase. If they coincide at a single point on the screen,

they remain in phase if their path lengths diﬀer by an integer multiple of the wavelength λ.

If the horizontal distance D to the screen is much larger than the slit separation f, then the

phase matching length should equal the path length diﬀerence for constructive interference

to occur

f sin(θ) = λn.

If the beams meet on the screen a distance y from the slit positions projected onto the screen

and if θ « 1, then

fy ≈ Dλn.

Now accounting for the shape of the pattern, the information from the screen is of the

magnitude and phase of the light. θ depends on y because the path to y varies:

f (y − 2� )2

f1 (y) = D2 + (y − )2 ≈ D + ,

2 2D

while

(y + 2� )2

f2 (y) ≈ D + .

2D

From this,

2π

θi (y) =

fi (y).

λ

As for magnitudes, A1 = A2 = A0 because the slits are identical and pointlike. This means

6 8.04: Lecture 2

which reduces to

2πfy

|A(y)|2 ≈ 2A20 · (1 + cos( )).

λD

This yields maxima at

fy = Dλn

as expected. Note that maxima correspond to constructive interference, while minima cor

respond to destructive interference. This comes from the fact that amplitudes add, and the

intensity is the square of the amplitude.

The point is that in 8.03, you did the double-slit experiment and saw the interference fringes.

This implies that light is a wave, which nicely ﬁts the Maxwell equations. By contrast, chunks

should behave diﬀerently!

Classically, particles sent through a double-slit screen onto another screen should hit the

ﬁnal screen at one localized point or the other, and intensities would sum directly with no

interference terms. This seems to build credence for the idea that light is a wave and is not

chunky.

To recapitulate, 8.02 and 8.022 say that light is an electromagnetic wave. From 8.03, light

interferes with itself, so light should be a smooth continuum. Yet from 8.04, if light is applied

to a metal, it comes only in chunks!

Accompanying this is the fact that light has an energy and a momentum

E = hν (0.3)

p = hλ−1 . (0.4)

That’s enough about light for now. What about atoms? Well, we are not as conﬁdent that

they exist, so let us stick with electrons for now. While the properties of color and hardness

in electrons are disturbing, we should be able to agree that if electrons are truly particles,

they would be localized and would thus hit a screen in a slit experiment in exactly one spot.

We can check this with a double-slit experiment.

It turns out that electrons interfere like waves even with themselves! If they were really

particles, they would have followed only one of two paths: the path from the top slit to the

end, or the path from the bottom slit to the end. We could use a wall to check which one

is happening. Yet this produces the exact same conundrum as for the boxes from before for

8.04: Lecture 2 7

the exact same reasons. Hence, the electron must be taking a superposition of the possible

paths. So the electron is neither strictly a particle nor strictly a wave, but is just an electron.

But could we be a little more clever in trying to glean through which slit the electron passed?

We could cheat by using very diﬀuse (low-energy) light. Examining one path would not be

like blocking it, so there would be a mild deﬂection but the overall interference pattern

should qualitatively be preserved.

The problem with this is that light is quantized. Every collision imparts a discrete E = hν

and p = hλ−1 ; low intensity simply means the collisions are rare. And if the energy and

momentum are low, the wavelength, which becomes the resolution of the electron’s spatial

location, becomes too large to remain meaningful.

Hence, determining through which slit an electron passes does away with the interference

8 8.04: Lecture 2

pattern. This means that every force must be quantized like E = hν and p = hλ−1 , or else

the slit passage could be determined without messing with the interference pattern.

But are electrons waves then? Davisson and Germer sent a beam of electrons into a crystal

and found the phenomenon of Bragg scattering. The path length diﬀerence between one

layer of the crystal and the next is

Δf = 2f sin(θ)

Δf = λn.

This means

n

λ−1 = .

2f sin(θ)

Davisson and Germer also observed that

√ √

n 2mqe V0 2mE p

≈ = = .

2f sin(θ) h h h

E = hν (0.5)

p = hλ−1 . (0.6)

MIT OpenCourseWare

http://ocw.mit.edu

Spring 2013

For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms.

8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 3

The Wavefunction

Assigned Reading:

E&R 16,7 , 21,2,3,4,5 , 3all NOT 4all !!!

Li. 1all , 23,5,6 NOT 2-4!!!

Ga. 12,3,4 NOT 1-5!!!

Sh. 3

In classical mechanics, the conﬁguration or state of a system is given by a point (x, p) in the

space of coordinates and momenta. This speciﬁes everything else in the system in a fully

deterministic way, in that any observable Y that can be expressed as Y (x, p) can be found,

and any that cannot is irrelevant. Yet, as we have seen with the diﬀraction of electrons, it is

impossible to know both the position and momentum of the electron exactly at every point

along the trajectory. This is mathematically expressed as the famous position-momentum

uncertainty principle:

ΔxΔp ≥ 2 . (0.1)

Hence, specifying a state by (x, p) clearly will not work. So what speciﬁes the state of a

quantum system?

by a wavefunction denoted as ψ(x).

state ψ(x) will be found at position x.

Note that

ψ ∈ C,

meaning the wavefunction is complex! Here, the real part of ψ is being drawn for simplicity,

as complex-plane paper is hard to ﬁnd. Furthermore, ψ must be singly-valued and not

“stupid”; the latter point will be elaborated later.

Let us examine this set of examples in further detail. The ﬁrst wavefunction ψ1 is sharply

peaked at a particular value of x, and the probability density, being its square, is likewise

peaked there as well. This is the wavefunction for a particle well localized at a position given

by the center of the peak, as the probability density is high there, and the width of the peak

is small, so the uncertainty in the position is very small.

2 8.04: Lecture 3

(blue, right)

The second wavefunction ψ2 has the same peak proﬁle, but shifted to a diﬀerent position

center. All of the properties of the ﬁrst wavefunction hold here too, so this simply describes

a particle that is well-localized at that diﬀerent position.

The third and fourth wavefunctions ψ3 and ψ4 respectively look like sinusoids of diﬀerent

spatial periods. The wavefunctions are actually complex of the form

ψ(x) = N eikx ,

so only the real part is being plotted here. Note that even though the periods are diﬀerent,

|eikx |2 = 1

for all k, so the corresponding probability densities are the same except for maybe a nor

malization constant. We saw before that it does not make a whole lot of sense to think of a

sinusoidal wave as being localized in some place. Indeed, the positions for these two wave-

functions are ill-deﬁned, so they are not well-localized, and the uncertainty in the position

is large in each case.

8.04: Lecture 3 3

have a well-deﬁned probability density.

Note the normalization and dimensions of the wavefunction: the cumulative probability over

all possible positions is unity, so

|ψ(x)|2 dx = 1,

and the probability density has dimensions reciprocal to the integration variable that yields

a cumulative probability which in this case is position, so the wavefunction has units of

reciprocal square root of length. Finally, note that while the wavefunction is in general

complex, the probability (density) must always be real. This also means that ψ(x) is only

uniquely deﬁned up to an arbitrary complex phase, because all imaginary exponentials eiθ

satisfy |eiθ |2 = 1, so the probability density and therefore the physical interpretation of the

wavefunction are unaﬀected by multiplication by a complex phase.

You may now be thinking that the only useful wavefunctions are peaks that are well-localized

around a given position. But let us remember that the de Broglie relations says that a wave of

wavelength λ has a momentum p = hλ−1 . This means that ψ3 and ψ4 , being sinusoidal waves,

have well-deﬁned wavelengths and therefore well-deﬁned momenta with small uncertainties

in their respective momenta, with ψ4 having a smaller wavelength and therefore a larger

momentum than ψ3 . On the other hand, ψ1 and ψ2 do not look like sinusoidal waves, so it

is diﬃcult to deﬁne a wavelength and therefore a momentum for each, and the respective

momentum uncertainties are large. These qualitatively satisfy the uncertainty relation.

In general, given a wavefunction, once the uncertainty in the position is determined, a lower

bound for the uncertainty in the momentum can be found by the uncertainty relation. This

always works. If Δx is large, then Δp is small, and the opposite is true as well. At some

point, we will have to ﬁgure out how to calculate these uncertainties. But there are two

things to be done before that.

ψ(x, t) = ei(kx−ωt)

has frequency

ω = 2πν

and wavevector

k = 2πλ−1 .

This means that the de Broglie relations can be rewritten as

E = ~ω (0.2)

p = ~k. (0.3)

4 8.04: Lecture 3

In three dimensions, the energy relation is unchanged, while the momentum relation p = ~k

simply takes on the form of a vector relation.

The second is much more important, and that is to quantify the notion of superposition that

we have been developing.

Given two possible states of a quantum system corresponding to two

wavefunctions ψa and ψb , the system could also be in a superposition

ψ = αψa + βψb with α and β as arbitrary complex coeﬃcients satisfying

normalization.

This forms the soul of quantum mechanics!

p(x) = |αψa (x) + βψb (x)|2 = |αψa (x)|2 + |βψb (x)|2 + α� βψa� (x)ψb (x) + αβ � ψa (x)ψb� (x)

For example, let us consider ψ5 = ψ1 + ψ2 from our previous set of examples. Putting

normalization aside, this looks like two distinct well-localized peaks. Each peak individually

represented a particle that was localized at the position of the peak center. But now that

there are two peaks, the particle is at neither position individual. It is not at both positions

simultaneously, nor is it at no position at all. It is simply in a superposition of two states of

deﬁnite position. The probability density of this superposition state will show no interference

because when one of the component wavefunctions exhibits a peak, the other component

wavefunction is zero, so their product is zero at all positions.

said that a particle in this state has one or the other momentum, nor can it be said that it

has both or neither momenta. In contrast to the previous superposition example, though,

the probability density will exhibit interference because the product of the two wavefunctions

is not always zero as they are both sinusoidal waves.

Note for the example of ψ5 that this superposition state has more spatial localization than

each of the component sinusoidal wavefunctions. This spatial localization could be made

even better with three states of diﬀerent deﬁnite momenta. We could do this for arbitrarily

large countable n: as a state of deﬁnite momentum is

ψ(x; k) = eikx

8.04: Lecture 3 5

ψ= αj eikj x

j

could have a very well-localized position center. Or, other states with diﬀerent properties

compared to just having a well-localized position could be built from superpositions of mo

mentum states. But why should we stop there? There is no reason to consider only discrete

kj , when the entire range of k over the real line is available.

The Fourier theorem says that any function f (x) can be composed of

complex sinusoidal waves eikx as

Z ∞

1

f (x) = √ f˜(k)eikx dk. (0.4)

2π −∞

This is the continuous analogue of the discrete sum Fourier series

j

Z ∞

˜ 1

f (k) = √ f (x)e−ikx dx. (0.6)

2π −∞

This is the continuous analogue of the Fourier expansion coeﬃcients

Z π

1

αj = f (x)e−ikj x dx. (0.7)

2π −π

be expressed as a superposition of states eikx with deﬁnite momenta

p = k as

∞ ˜

ψ(x) = √12π −∞ ψ(k)e ikx

dk. (0.8)

Furthermore, ψ̃(k) gives the exact same information as ψ(x) about the

quantum state, so once one is known, the other can be found automat

ically as well.

What do the Fourier transforms of wavefunctions look like? Let us look at the previous set

of examples. ψ1 looks like a Dirac delta function, and its Fourier transform is a complex

exponential . . . except that is exactly what ψ3 looks like as a function of x! Similarly, ψ2

has a larger position than ψ1 , so its Fourier transform has a larger frequency as a complex

exponential function of k. Furthermore, performing the Fourier transform on a function

6 8.04: Lecture 3

twice simply recovers the original function. This implies that the Fourier transform of ψ3

looks like ψ1 as a function of k, and the same goes for ψ4 with regard to ψ2 . Finally, in a

similar vein, aside from normalization, ψ5 and ψ6 are Fourier transforms of each other.

This means that a wavefunction that is well-localized around a given position has a Fourier

transform that looks like a sinusoidal function of k, and the frequency of oscillation as a

function of k is given by that position. Similarly, a wavefunction that looks like a sinusoidal

function of x has a Fourier transform that is well-localized around a given wavevector, and

that wavevector is the frequency of oscillation as a function of x.

So what then is p(k)? This is the probability density that the particle described by the

wavefunction ψ(x) has a momentum p = k. The expression turns out to be surprisingly

simple:

p(k) = |ψ̃(k)|2 ,

and it is not too diﬃcult to show this to be the case.

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8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 4

Expectations, Momentum, and Uncertainty

Assigned Reading:

Li. 25−8 , 31−3

Ga. 2all=4

Sh. 3, 4

a N

14 1

15 1

16 3

20 2

21 4

22 5

of ﬁnding a person with a given age is P(a) = NNtotal

(a)

, satisfying a P(a) = 1.

What is the most likely age? In this case, that is 22.

What is the average age? In general, the weighted average

aaN (a)

(a) = = aP(a).

Ntotal a

In this case, it is 19.4. Note that in general, as in this example, (a) does not have

to be a measurable value of a!

What is the average of the squared age? In general,

(a2 ) = a2 P(a).

a

(f (a)) = f (a)P(a).

a

2 8.04: Lecture 4

Is the average of the squared age equal to the square of the average age? In

mathematical notation, is (a2 ) = (a)2 ? No! If a represented a more general

quantity rather than age, it could sometimes be positive or negative, and those

terms might cancel out in the average. By contrast, a2 would never be negative,

so its average would satisfy that too.

How do we characterize the uncertainty? We could use Δa = a − (a), but the

problem is that (Δa) = 0 identically. Instead, we use the standard deviation

deﬁned by

(Δa)2 = ((a − (a))2 ),

which also satisﬁes

Similar expressions exist for continuous variables. Given that ψ has been discussed as a

function of position x thus far, it makes sense to proceed in that way. Mathematically,

∞

(f (x)) = f (x)p(x) dx (0.1)

−∞

but p(x) = ψ * (x)ψ(x). Hence, the way to ﬁnd the expectation value of a function of position

in a given quantum state is

∞

(f (x)) = ψ * (x)f (x)ψ(x) dx. (0.2)

−∞

∞

In all this, the normalization −∞

p(x) dx = 1 is assumed. From this, the uncertainty in

position

Δx ≡ (x2 ) − (x)2 (0.3)

can be found.

Notice that expectation values (f (x)) depend on the state! This can be written as (f (x))ψ ,

ψ(x) = {N · (x2 − l2 )2 for |x| ≤ l, 0 otherwise}. (0.4)

We need to ﬁgure out the normalization for this wavefunction by

∞

|ψ(x)|2 dx = 1 (0.5)

−∞

�

iϕ

315 e√

which, when eﬀected by nondimensionalization of the integral, yields N = 256 l

.

After this, by noting that |ψ(x)|2 is even while x is odd, then (x) = 0. Also,

l2

(x2 ) = 11 . Hence, Δx = √l11 .

8.04: Lecture 4 3

After all of this,

say that (p) = −∞ ψ * (x)pψ(x) dx. But how exactly are we to express p in an integral over

functions of x? Clearly, this will not do!

k = 2πλ−1

is associated with a particle with

p = hλ−1 = nk.

Disregarding normalization, the associated wavefunction is

ψ = eikx .

But note that

∂eikx

= ikeikx .

∂x

This means that

∂eikx

−in = nkeikx .

∂x

Thus

∂eikx

−in = p · eikx ,

∂x

and the units work out too! But what does momentum have to do with a derivative with

respect to position anyway?

Here’s another hint: Noether’s theorem states that to every symmetry is associated a con

served quantity.

Symmetry Conservation

x → x + Δx p

t → t + Δt E

↔

x →R ·x L

4 8.04: Lecture 4

l∂f (x) l2 ∂ 2 f (x)

f (x) → f (x + l) = f (x) + + + ... (0.6)

∂x 2∂x2

∞

X l∂

= ( )n f (x) (0.7)

n=0

∂x

l∂

= e ∂x f (x). (0.8)

∂

Hence translations are generated by spatial derivatives ∂x . But we just said that translations

∂

are associated with p! This means that it is natural to associate p with ∂x somehow. In a

∂ ∂

similar way, E would be associated with ∂t , and Lz with ∂ϕ .

Momentum in quantum mechanics is realized by an operator

∂

p̂ = −in . (0.9)

∂x

Z ∞

n n ∂ n ψ(x)

(p ) = (−in) ψ * (x) dx (0.10)

−∞ ∂xn

Z ∞

∂ψ(x)

(p) = −in ψ * (x) dx (0.12)

−∞ ∂x

Z ∞

2

= −in|N | (x2 − l2 )2 · (2 · 2x · (x2 − l2 )) dx (0.13)

−∞

=0 (0.14)

3n 2

By a similar computation, (p2 ) =

√ l2

, which dimensionally makes sense as well.

3n

From this, we ﬁnd that Δp = l , and the uncertainty relation is satisﬁed as

�

q

3

ΔxΔp = 11 n.

8.04: Lecture 4 5

But what does this new operator p̂ have to do with having momentum p = nk? Let us

consider two states given by

ψk (x) = eikx

and

'

ψs (x) = eikx + eik x .

The ﬁrst has deﬁnite momentum p = nk, while the second, being a superposition of states

with deﬁnite momenta p = nk and p' = nk ' , is not itself a state of deﬁnite momentum. We

can show this by acting on each state with the operator p̂:

ˆ k (x) = nkeikx

pψ

'

ˆ s (x) = n · (keikx + k ' eik x )

pψ

is not simply proportional to ψs (x). We see that p̂ is an operator which acts simply on

wavefunctions corresponding to states with deﬁnite momenta, but not on arbitrary super

positions of momentum states. This means that p̂ is the operator whose eigenstates

are states of deﬁnite momentum, and the corresponding eigenvalue is exactly

the momentum of that state.

MIT OpenCourseWare

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Spring 2013

8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 5

Operators and the Schrödinger Equation

Assigned Reading:

Li. 25−8 , 31−3

Ga. 2all=4

Sh. 3, 4

We have just seen that in quantum mechanics, momentum becomes associated with an

operator proportional to the spatial derivative. But what exactly is an operator, and what

is the relation of any other observable quantity to an operator? Let us take this moment to

ﬂesh out some mathematical deﬁnitions.

Examples include the identity 1ˆ such that ˆ1f (x) = f (x), the spatial derivative Dˆ = ∂ such

∂x

that Df ˆ (x) = ∂f (x) , the position x̂ = x such that x̂f (x) = xf (x), the square 2̂ such that

∂x

ˆ (x) = f 2 (x), the projection Pˆy such that Pˆy f (x) = y, and the addition Aˆy such that

2f

Ây f (x) = f (x) + y, among others. Notationally, operators will be distinguished by hats on

top of symbols.

ˆ

O(af ˆ (x) + bÔg(x) .

(x) + bg(x)) = aOf (0.1)

From our previous examples, it can be shown that the ﬁrst, second, and third operators are

linear, while the fourth, ﬁfth, and sixth operators are not linear.

ˆ if

All operators com with a small set of special functions of their own. For an operator A,

for a given A ∈ C, then f (x) is an eigenfunction of the operator Aˆ and A is the corre

sponding eigenvalue. Operators act on eigenfunctions in a way identical to multiplying the

eigenfunction by a constant number. For instance, the aforementioned operator D̂ has as its

eigenfunctions all exponentials eαx , with any α ∈ C allowed.

In general, though, most functions are not eigenfunctions of a given operator. That is why

eigenfunctions and eigenvalues of a given operator are particularly special!

2 8.04: Lecture 5

operator . For instance, the momentum operator is

∂

p̂ = −in ,

∂x

the position operator is

x̂ = x,

the energy operator is

p̂2 n2 ∂ 2

Ê = + V (x̂) = − + V (x),

2m 2m ∂x2

and so on. Given a state described by a wavefunction ψ(x), we can calculate the expectation

value of any observable quantity in that state by using the corresponding operator:

� ∞

n

�A � = ψ � (x)Âψ(x) dx,

−∞

and

ΔA ≡ �A2 � − �A�2 .

Note that the operator order matters! For instance,

∂ ∂f (x)

p̂ˆ ˆ (x)) = −in

xf (x) = p(xf (xf (x)) = −in · f (x) + x ,

∂x ∂x

while

∂f (x) ∂f (x)

pf (x) = xˆ −in

x̂ˆ = −inx .

∂x ∂x

To measure the importance of order, we deﬁne the commutator of two operators Â and B̂ as

ˆ B̂] ≡ AB̂

[A, ˆ − B̂ Aˆ . (0.2)

pf (x) − pˆ

x̂ˆ ˆxf (x) = inf (x)

[x̂, p̂] = in1̂ . (0.3)

This is a deep and profound result in quantum mechanics!

Upon measuring an observable A which has an associated operator A, ˆ the measured value

ˆ

is one of the eigenvalues of A. Then, immediately after the measurement occurs, the wave-

function corresponding to the system state changes to be the eigenfunction φ(x; A) of Â such

that

Âφ(x; A) = A · φ(x; A).

8.04: Lecture 5 3

sponding to the measured quantity is called wavefunction collapse. It is a strange beast, but

we will come back to it later.

Note that all eigenvalues of operators corresponding to an observable quantity must be real.

Operators with only real eigenvalues have many special properties that we will explore later.

p = nk,

and for a given k, these are the momenta that can be measured. This means that the

eigenfunctions must be

φ(x; k) = N eikx

for some normalization N . That said, the eigenfunctions φ(x; k) are not strictly normalizable,

because they do not approach 0 as x → ±∞. Non-normalizable wavefunctions like this

one are not valid as physical single-particle states, but are useful for building normalizable

wavepackets that do represent physical single-particle states. This also means that we can

never measure quantities like momentum or position with full precision, either, because like

momentum, position is a continuous variable so its eigenfunctions are not normalizable.

As another example, let us suppose a particle is found at position x0 . What is its wavefunc

tion immediately after this measurement occurs? It must be an eigenfunction of the position

operator x̂, and it must vanish for x = x0 . This implies that

φ(x; x0 ) = N δ(x − x0 )

is the desired wavefunction with some normalization coeﬃcint N , because by the properties

of the Dirac delta function,

ˆ

xδ(x − x0 ) = x0 · δ(x − x0 ).

As with momentum eigenfunctions, position eigenfunctions are not normalizable, but they

can be used in superpositions to form normalizable wavepackets corresponding to physical

single-particle states.

As yet another example, let us say that a quantum object is in a state given by the wave-

function ψ(x). Measuring the position to be x0 changes the wavefunction to δ(x − x0 ),

which is not a superposition. Measuring the momentum to be p0 would instead change the

ip0 x

wavefunction to e � , which is also not a superposition. Hence, measurement of a particular

eigenvalue collapses the wavefunction into the corresponding eigenfunction.

Let us say that we know the state given by a wavefunction ψ(x) and we want to measure

the position. The probability density, given that position is continuous, of measuring x0 is

p(x0 ) = |ψ(x0 )|2 . What does this look like for a more general observable A?

4 8.04: Lecture 5

fulﬁlling

Âφ(x; A) = A · φ(x; A),

ˆ If A is

we can expand any wavefunction ψ(x) as a superposition of eigenfunctions of A.

discrete, then

ψ(x) = cA φ(x; A) (0.4)

A

�

Z

ψ(x) = c(A)φ(x; A) dA. (0.5)

�

ψ(x) = c(x0 )φ(x; x0 ) dx0 .

In this case,

c(x0 ) = ψ(x0 )

as

φ(x; x0 ) = N δ(x − x0 ).

The probability density of measuring a position is then

For momentum, Z

�

ψ(x) = c(k)φ(x; k) dk.

In this case,

c(k) = ψ̃(k)

as

φ(x; k) = N eikx .

The probability density of measuring a momentum is then

p(k) = |ψ̃(k)|2 .

8.04: Lecture 5 5

X

ψ(x) = cn φ(x; En ).

n

Generally, the eigenfunctions φ(x; En ) depend on the particular system, so a general form

cannot be given for them, and thus neither can a general form be given for cn . Still, though,

the probability (not a density for discrete energies) of measuring an energy is

P(En ) = |cn |2 .

tions of an operator Aˆ corresponding to an observable A, it is useful to ﬁnd the expansion

coeﬃcients. Whether or not A is continuous, the following is true (though notationally, cA

would be used in the discrete case, while c(A) would be used in the continuous case, so the

notation should be chosen based on context):

�

Z

c(A) = φ?� (x; A)ψ(x) dx ≡ h�φ(A)|ψ i�. (0.8)

The reason why doing this is useful is because an observable A with a corresponding operator

Â has real eigenvalues and orthonormal eigenvectors. What this means is that

j vj ej with ej · el = δjl , and the expansion coeﬃcients would be vj = ej · v. That is also

why the term c(A) = �hφ(A)|ψ �i is known as an inner product.

Thus far, we have seen that the conﬁguration of the system is given by a wavefunction

corresponding to a quantum state. Expectation values of observables are found through the

actions of corresponding operators on quantum states. Measuring a particular value for a

quantity is probabilistic, but once the measurement is made, the wavefunction collapses into

the eigenfunction corresponding to that measured eigenvalue. Given the wavefunction, these

are all the predictions that can be made about the system at a given moment in time. So

what happens at a later time? We have seen that translations are tied to time derivatives,

so the real question is, what is ∂ψ(x,t)

∂t

?

ψ(x, t; k) = ei(kx−ωt)

have energy

E = nω.

6 8.04: Lecture 5

ψ(x, t) = e−iωt φ(x)

regardless of φ(x). We can also see that

∂ψ(x, t)

in = nωψ(x, t)

∂t

in such a case. This seems to suggest that the energy operator Eˆ is tied to the operator

∂

in ∂t . Along with this, we need that translation in time respect superposition and that the

total probability �

Z ∞

ψ ?� (x, t)ψ(x, t) dx = 1

−∞

be conserved. This means that the time derivative, which is linear, acting on a wavefunction

should be equal to a linear operator acting on the wavefunction.

∂ψ(x, t)

Êψ(x, t) = in . (0.9)

∂t

This equation describing the time evolution of a quantum state is analogous to the equation

of motion F = ṗ. Take care to note that Eˆ is not deﬁned as the operator in ∂t ∂

any more

than F is deﬁned to be ṗ. Like F, the deﬁnition of Eˆ depends on the details of the system.

In this class, the general form for Eˆ comes from turning the classical equation

p2

E= + V (x)

2m

into an operator deﬁnition

p̂2

Eˆ = + V (x̂).

2m

Finally, this is not a derivation per se of the Schrödinger equation, but has been motivated

by our ﬁnding of the momentum operator as a generator of spatial translations.

1. It is linear, so it respects superposition. If ψ(x, t; n) = in ∂ψ(x,t;n)

∂t

,then

X ∂ X

Ê cn ψ(x, t; n) = in cn ψ(x, t; n) .

n

∂t n

3. It is deterministic! It is ﬁrst-order in t, so if ψ(x, 0) is known, then the Schrödinger

equation determines ψ(x, t) for all t. However, note that wavefunction collapse upon

measurement is not deterministic!

MIT OpenCourseWare

http://ocw.mit.edu

Spring 2013

8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 6

Time Evolution and the Schrödinger Equation

Assigned Reading:

Li. 25−8 , 31−3

Ga. 2all=4

Sh. 3, 4

p̂2 mω 2 x̂2

Eˆ = + ,

2m 2

then the Schrödinger equation becomes

∂ψ n2 ∂ 2 ψ mω 2 x2

in =− + ψ.

∂t 2m ∂x2 2

Of course, Eˆ depends on the system, and the Schrödinger equation changes accordingly.

To fully solve this for a given E,

through brute force, extreme cleverness, and numerical calculation. An elegant way that

helps in all cases though makes use of superposition.

Suppose that at t = 0, our system is in a state of deﬁnite energy. This means that

where

Êφ(x; E) = E · φ(x; E).

∂ψE

in = E · ψE .

∂t

Given the initial condition, this is easily solved to be

E = nω.

Note that

p(x, t) = |ψ(x, t; E)|2 = |φ(x; E)|2 ,

2 8.04: Lecture 6

so the time evolution disappears from the probability density! That is why wavefunctions

corresponding to states of deﬁnite energy are also called stationary states.

So are all systems in stationary states? Well, probabilities generally evolve in time, so that

cannot be. Then are any systems in stationary states? Well, nothing is eternal, and like the

plane wave, the stationary state is only an approximation. So why do we even bother with

this?

n n

thanks to the linearity of that equation. This means that any ψ(x) at any time satisfying

appropriate boundary conditions can be expressed as a superposition of energy eigenfunc

tions. But what do these energy eigenstates look like anyway? The answer depends on the

ˆ which depends on the system in question.

particular form of E,

V (x) = 0,

so

p̂2 n2 ∂ 2

Ê = =− .

2m 2m ∂x2

We need to solve for the eigenfunctions given by

ÊφE = E · φE ,

so

n2 ∂ 2 φE

− = E · φE .

2m ∂x2

Making the substitution

2mE

k2 ≡

n2

yields the general solution

φ(x; E) = αeikx + βe−ikx

where α and β are complex constant coeﬃcients satisfying normalization.

8.04: Lecture 6 3

Another way to get this would be through the knowledge that the eigenfunctions of p̂ are

n2 k 2

E=

2m

ikx −ikx

is the energy of both the states e and e . This is an example of a degeneracy: sometimes,

diﬀerent states happen to share the same eigenvalue for a particular observable operator.

an eigenfunction. We want to ﬁx the normalization such that

(φE |φE ' ) = δ(E − E ' ).

In the previous case, it makes sense to choose the normalization

(φk |φk' ) = δ(k − k ' )

as k is continuous, so

1

φ(x; k) = √ eikx .

2π

Continuing with that example,

n2 k 2

E=

2m

implies that

nk 2

ω= ,

2m

so the solution for all time is a traveling wave

ψ(x, t; E) = ei(kx−ωt)

disregarding normalization. Note that the phase velocity

ω nk

vp = =

k 2m

is half of the classical velocity of a free particle, while the group velocity

∂ω nk

vg = =

∂k m

is exactly the classical velocity. In general, the group velocity is more representative of the

classical velocity than is the phase velocity, as the group velocity is observable while the

phase velocity is not.

Let us move on to an example of a nontrivial potential. The inﬁnite square well, also known

as the particle in a box, is an idealization of a large, deep potential. It is given by

V (x) = {0 for 0 ≤ x ≤ f, ∞ otherwise}.

4 8.04: Lecture 6

implying that ψ(x) = 0 outside of the box. Inside, we can use the energy eigenvalue equation

n 2 ∂ 2 φE

− = E · φE

2m ∂x2

and deﬁne

n2 k 2 ≡ 2mE

so that the solutions are

φ(x; E) = A sin(kx) + B cos(kx).

The boundary conditions

ψ(0) = ψ(f) = 0

imply B = 0 and

kf = π(n + 1),

so

π

kn = (n + 1).

f

This means that the allowed energies are

π 2 n2 (n + 1)2

En = .

2mf2

Note that the energies are discrete, and that E0 > 0, which is also thanks to the uncertainty

principle. This is very diﬀerent from a classical particle in a box! Also, the eigenfunctions

are

φn (x) = An sin(kn x),

and the time-evolved eigenfunctions are

iEn t

ψn (x, t) = An e− � sin(kn x).

∞

|ψn (x)|2 dx = 1

−∞

2 iϕ

An = e .

f

8.04: Lecture 6 5

Figure 1: First, second, and third lowest-energy eigenfunctions (red) and associated proba

bility densities (blue) for the inﬁnite square well potential

Once again, the overall phase is not physical, so for convenience, ϕ = 0, so that

r

2

An = .

f

of the energy eigenfunctions φn as

Z ∞

(φi |φj ) = φ (x; i)φ(x; j) dx = δij (0.3)

−∞

X X

(ψ|ψ) = ci cj δij = |cj |2 = 1 (0.4)

i,j j

Going back to the example of the inﬁnite square well, the eigenfunctions are

r

2

φ(x; n) = sin(kn x)

f

6 8.04: Lecture 6

with

π

kn = (n + 1),

f

so the expansion r

X 2

ψ(x) = cn sin(kn x)

n

f

is just a usual Fourier series! Similarly, for a free particle, the eigenfunctions are

1

φ(x; k) = √ eikx

2π

with the normalization

(φk |φk' ) = δ(k − k ' ),

so the expansion Z ∞

1 ˜ ikx

ψ(x) = √ ψ(k)e dk

−∞ 2π

is just a normal inverse Fourier transform!

Note that

cn = (φn |ψ)

is consistent with any general expansion

X

ψ(x) = cn φ(x; n),

n

and the continuous analogue is likewise true. We can check this in the discrete case as

Z ∞

cn = (φn |ψ) = φ? (x; n)ψ(x) dx

−∞

X Z ∞

= cs φ? (x; n)φ(x; s) dx

s −∞

= cs δns = cn

s

as expected by orthonomality. We can also check an example of the continuous case through

the free particle:

Z ∞

ψ̃(k) = (φk |ψ) = φ? (x; k)ψ(x) dx

−∞

Z ∞

Z Z

1 −ikx 1 −ikx 1 ˜ ' ik' x ' ˙

= √ e ψ(x) dx = √ e √ ψ(k )e dk dx

−∞ 2π 2π 2π

Z

= ψ̃(k ' )δ(k − k ' ) dk ' = ψ̃(k)

8.04: Lecture 6 7

again by orthonomality.

All operators corresponding to measurable observables have real eigenvalues which are the

values of those observables that can be measured, and the eigenfunctions are orthonormal.

Any wavefunction representing a quantum state can then be expanded in terms of those

eigenfunctions: X

ψ(x) = cA φ(x; A)

A

ψ(x) = c(A)φ(x; A) dA

ˆ The expansion

in the continuous case for an observable A with a corresponding operator A.

coeﬃcients do have meaning. If the measurable values of a certain observable are discrete,

then

P(A) = |cA |2

is the probability of measuring the value A for that observable, while in the continuous case,

p(A) = |c(A)|2

ψ(x) = cn φ(x; n),

n

P(En ) = |cn |2 .

In the case of momentum, the expansion coeﬃcient is the Fourier transform of the wave-

function, so the probability density of measuring a momentum p = nk in that state is

p(k) = |ψ̃(k)|2 .

In the case of position, the expansion coeﬃcient is exactly the same wavefunction at a

diﬀerently-labeled position because the position eigenfunctions are Dirac delta functions, so

the probability density of measuring a position x0 in that state is

8 8.04: Lecture 6

But there is an even better reason to expand wavefunctions in terms of energy eigenfunctions.

If X

ψ(x, 0) = cn φ(x; n),

n

then X

ψ(x, t) = cn e−iωn t φ(x; n) (0.5)

n

describes how the state evolves in time. The reason this works is because the energy operator

Ê and the Schrödinger equation respect superposition!

Note that if φ(x; n) is postulated to not evolve in time, then the expansion coeﬃcients must

evolve in time:

cn (t) = cn e−iωn t .

However,

P(En , t) = |cn (t)|2 = |cn |2

is independent of time as the time evolution is simply a complex phase. Similarly,

X X

(E) = En P(En , t) = En |cn |2

n n

is independent of time. However, it can be shown that quantities such as (x) in general do

depend on time. This is because physical state wavefunctions are not pure energy eigenfunc

tions but are superpositions thereof!

MIT OpenCourseWare

http://ocw.mit.edu

Spring 2013

8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 7

More on Energy Eigenstates

Assigned Reading:

Li. 25−8 , 31−3

Ga. 2all=4

Sh. 3, 4

Suppose someone hands you a potential and asks, ”What do the energy eigenfunctions

look like?” As we will see throughout 8.04, there is a lot of physics in the form of these

eigenfunctions!

We know that

Êφ(x; E) = E · φ(x; E) (0.1)

where

p̂2

Eˆ = + V (x̂). (0.2)

2m

Knowing that

∂φ

p̂φ(x) = −ih

∂x

and

x̂φ(x) = xφ(x),

then the energy eigenvalue equation becomes

h2 ∂ 2 φ(x; E)

− + V (x)φ(x; E) = Eφ(x; E). (0.3)

2m ∂x2

Using the simpliﬁcation

2m

k 2 (x) = (E − V (x)) (0.4)

h2

yields

∂ 2 φ(x; E)

+ k 2 (x)φ(x; E) = 0 (0.5)

∂x2

∂ 2 f (x)

for the energy eigenvalue equation. Denoting f "" (x) = ∂x2

yields

φ"" (x; E)

= −k 2 (x) (0.6)

φ(x; E)

2 8.04: Lecture 7

φ"" (x; E)

<0

φ(x; E)

which implies oscillatory behavior of the eigenfunction in that region. If E < V (x), then

k 2 (x) < 0, and

φ"" (x; E)

>0

φ(x; E)

which implies exponential behavior of the eigenfunction in that region.

To reiterate, in classically allowed regions, the energy eigenfunctions are oscillatory, while in

classically forbidden regions, the energy eigenfunctions are exponential.

Figure 1: For the energy denoted by the black line for the potential denoted by the green

curve, regions (I) and (III) are classically forbidden, so the energy eigenfunction exhibits

exponential behavior, while region (II) is classically allowed, so the energy eigenfunction

exhibits oscillatory behavior

Can we get more information about what these energy eigenfunctions look like?

1. They need to be normalizable. This means that

x→±∞

2. There needs to be continuity in both the energy eigenfunction and its ﬁrst spatial

derivative. The second spatial derivative of the energy eigenfunction depends through

the energy eigenvalue equation on the potential, which may or may not be continuous

depending on the situation.

behavior. It is not identically zero! This also implies that the probability density in a

8.04: Lecture 7 3

classically forbidden region is not identically zero! This is a feature that sets quantum

mechanics apart from classical mechanics!

5. The energy eigenfunctions can always be taken as real functions even though general

wavefunctions evolving in time are complex, and this can easily be shown.

Let us return to the inﬁnite square well. What are the allowed energy eigen

values? We can use the “shooting”

√ method to answer this. We start at x = 0,

pick a trial E with p = 2mE, and integrate the energy eigenvalue equation

φ"" (x; E)+k 2 (x)φ(x; E) = 0. Note that as the energy eigenvalue equation involves

the second spatial derivative of the energy eigenfunction, the energy eigenvalue

controls its curvature!

Figure 2: For E < E0 (top-left), the wavefunction overshoots to the right, and for E0 < E <

E1 (bottom-left), the wavefunction undershoots to the right, while for E = E0 (top-right)

and E = E1 (bottom-right), the wavefunction reaches the boundary properly

Our revisiting the inﬁnite square well leads us to two facts. One is that bound states have

discrete energies, while unbound states have continuous energies. From this comes the node

theorem which works for quantum mechanics in one spatial dimension. It states that as

bound states have discrete energies, the nth spatial energy eigenfunction (starting from

n = 0) has n nodes. For example, the ground state has no nodes, the ﬁrst excited state has

one node, et cetera.

(picture of weird well potential and eigenfunctions?)

MIT OpenCourseWare

http://ocw.mit.edu

Spring 2013

8.04: Quantum Mechanics Professor Allan Adams

Lecture 8

Quantum Harmonic Oscillator: Brute Force Methods

Assigned Reading:

Li. 3all , 41 , 51 , 6all

Ga. 24 , 3all

Sh. 4all , 51,2

We will now continue our journey of exploring various systems in quantum mechanics for

which we have now laid down the rules.

1. Bound states: the particle is somewhat localized and cannot escape the potential:

2. Unbound states: the particle can escape the potential.

Note that for the same potential, whether something is a bound state or an unbound state

depends on the energy considered.

Figure 1: For the ﬁnite well, the energy represented by the lower black line is for a bound

state, while the energy represented by the upper black line is for an unbound state

But note that in qunatum mechanics, because of the possibility of tunneling as seen before,

the deﬁnition of whether a state is bound or not diﬀers between classical and quantum

mechanics.

The point is that we need to compare E with limx→±∞ V (x) to determine if a state is bound

or not.

Why do we split our cases that way? Why do we study bound and unbound states separately

if they obey the same equations? After all, in classical mechanics, both obey F = ṗ. In

quantum mechanics, both obey

∂ψ(x, t)

Êψ(x, t) = iJ .

∂t

2 8.04: Lecture 8

Figure 2: The same energy denoted by the black line is a bound classical and quantum state

for the potential on the left, while the classical bound state is a quantum unbound state for

the potential on the right

The distinction is worth making because the bound and unbound states exhibit qualitatively

diﬀerent behaviors:

Mechanics Bound States Unbound States

Classical periodic motion aperiodic motion

Quantum discrete energy spectrum continuous energy spectrum

For now, we will focus on bound states, with discussions of unbound states coming later.

Let us remind ourselves of some of the properties of bound states.

1. Inﬁnite square well:

• nth excited state: n nodes (by the node theorem)

• Energy eigenfunctions chosen to be real

iEt

• Time evolution of energy eigenfunctions through complex phase e− � .

– Diﬀerent states evolve at diﬀerent rates

– Energy eigenstates have no time evolution in observables as p(x) for such

states is independent of t

– Time evolution of expectation values for observables comes only through in

terference terms between energy eigenfunctions

• V (x) is symmetric

– Leads to symmetry or antisymmetry of φ(x; E)

– Antisymmetric φ(x; E) are ﬁne as |φ(x; E)|2 is symmetric

• Exponetial tails in classically forbidden regions leads to discrete energy spectrum

(picture of shooting for ﬁnite square well?)

8.04: Lecture 8 3

• Asymmetry of potential breaks (anti)symmetry of eigenfunctions

• Shallow versus deep parts of well

– Deeper part of well → shorter λ as p = hλ−1 so particle travels faster there

– Deeper part of well → lesser amplitude as particle spends less time there so

probability density is less there

4. Harmonic oscillator

• Many symmetries present

• Evenly-spaced discrete energy spectrum is very special!

So why do we study the harmonic oscillator? We do because we know how to solve it exactly,

Such problems are in general diﬃcult. But we can expand the potential in a Taylor series

about the equilibrium, and if we stay close to the equilibrium point, we can drop terms other

than second-order (as the zeroth-order term is an uninteresting constant oﬀset, the ﬁrst-order

∞

� 1 ∂ j V (x0 ) j 1 ∂ 2 V (x0 )

V (x) = j (x − x 0 ) ≈ 2

(x − x0 )2 (0.1)

j=0

j! ∂x 0 2 ∂x0

2

where ∂ ∂x

V (x0 )

2 acts like the spring constant in a classical mechanical oscillator. Knowing

0

how the spring constant relates to the oscillation frequency and redeﬁning the origin for

convenience, we will be studying the system

1

V (x) = mω 2 x2 . (0.2)

2

As a side note, can you think of systems for which this approximation is not a good one?

One example might be V (x) = αx4 for some proportionality constant α.

The energy eigenstates of the harmonic oscillator form a family labeled by n coming from

Êφ(x; n) = En φ(x; n). This means that

J2 ∂ 2 φ(x; n) 1

− + mω 2 x2 φ(x; n) = En φ(x; n) (0.3)

2m ∂x2 2

4 8.04: Lecture 8

is the energy eigenvalue equation for the harmonic oscillator. This is not an easy diﬀerential

equation to solve! For now, we will solve this through brute force methods; later, this will

be solved with more sophistication.

Before we dive into the brute force method, though, let us take a look at what we already

know:

1. From dimensional analysis, we know that E ∝ Jω.

2. From the uncertainty principle, we know that the ground state energy E0 ∝ Jω.

3. The energy operator is

p̂2 1

Ê = + mω 2 x̂2 .

2m 2

There is a nice symmetry between x̂ and p̂. Up to constants, our system looks the same

whether we view it in position space or in momentum space. That is to say, there will

be symmetries between φ(x; E) and φ̃(k; E). Do we know of a function that looks the

same in both position space and momentum space? In other words, do we know of a

function that is functionally similar to its Fourier transform? We do, and that is the

Gaussian! We should expect to see some connection between the harmonic oscillator

eigenfunctions and the Gaussian function.

4. By the node theorem, φ(x; n) should have n nodes.

5. Here is a sneak preview of what the harmonic oscillator eigenfunctions look like: (pic

ture of harmonic oscillator eigenfunctions 0, 4, and 12?)

Our plan of attack is the following: non-dimensionalization → asymptotic analysis → series

method → proﬁt! Let us tackle these one at a time.

J2 ∂ 2 φ(x; E) 1

− + mω 2 x2 φ(x; E) = Eφ(x; E). (0.4)

2m ∂x2 2

m2 ω 2

It is not good to carry around so many constants in that equation. Note that J2

is

dimensionally the same as x−4 . This implies that we should deﬁne the constant

J

α≡

mω

as our length scale. We can then deﬁne u ≡ αx to non-dimensionalize position. Furthermore,

we know that E ∝ Jω, so non-dimensionalizing energy as ε = ~�Eω should work. This leaves

2

the energy eigenvalue equation in fully non-dimensional form as

∂ 2φ

= (u2 − ε)φ. (0.5)

∂u2

8.04: Lecture 8 5

This is certainly much neater, but it is not any easier. To make things easier, we need to

develop some more mathematical techniques.

that we are solving the equation

∂f (x) 1

+ 1+ f (x) = 0. (0.6)

∂x x

1 1

lim 1 + ≈ .

x→0 x x

∂f (x) f (x)

lim ≈ (0.7)

x→0 ∂x x

which is solved by

f (x) = f0 x−1 .

But this only considers the behavior as x → 0. Let us say that

∂g(x)

= −g(x),

∂x

which is solved by

g(x) = g0 e−x .

This means that the full solution is

g0

f (x) = (0.8)

xex

which is exact! The ﬁrst approximation was just to make our lives easier, and

there ended up being no accuracy sacriﬁced anywhere. Furthermore, e−x is indeed

relatively constant compared to x−1 as x → 0. To summarize, we looked at the

extreme behavior of the diﬀerential equation to peel oﬀ a part of the solution.

We then plugged that back in to get a simpler diﬀerential equation to solve.

∂g(x)

But what if we did not know how to solve ∂x

+ g(x) = 0? How would we ﬁgure

it out?

6 8.04: Lecture 8

This is where the series method comes in. We can expand the function as a power

series ∞

�

X

g(x) = aj xj (0.9)

j=0

and perhaps ﬁgure out what the coeﬃcients need to be. Now, we know that

∞ ∞ ∞

∂g(x) �X �

X �

X

= jaj xj−1 = jaj xj−1 = (s + 1)as+1 xs (0.10)

∂x j=0 j=1 s=0

j are just labels, so we might as well just say that

∞

∂g(x) �X

= (j + 1)aj+1 xj . (0.11)

∂x j=0

∞

�

X

((j + 1)aj+1 + aj )xj = 0. (0.12)

j=0

The left side is a polynomial in x. If this is zero for all x, then the overall

coeﬃcients are identically zero:

(j + 1)aj+1 + aj = 0 (0.13)

so

aj

aj+1 = − (0.14)

j+1

implying

(−1)j

aj = a0 (0.15)

j!

so

∞ ∞

�

X (−x)j

�

X

g(x) = aj x =j

a0 = a0 e−x (0.16)

j=0 j=0

j!

found the recursion relation for its coeﬃcients, and then plugged in the initial

conditions.

Let us get back into the physics of this. We want to solve the equation

∂ 2φ

= (u2 − ε)φ.

∂u2

8.04: Lecture 8 7

u→±∞

so

∂ 2φ

lim ≈ u2 φ. (0.18)

u→±∞ ∂u2

We can try

αu2

φ(u) = φ0 e 2 .

We ﬁnd that

∂φ

= αuφ

∂u

and

∂ 2φ

= (α + α2 u2 )φ ≈ α2 u2 φ

∂u2

in the same limit. Comparing this to our diﬀerential equation, we see that we need

α2 = 1

so

α = ±1.

We then get

u2 u2

φ(u) = φA e 2 + φB e− 2 .

The ﬁrst part is not normalizable, though, so we do not want that. We keep only the

second part and generalize the constant to a function of u that is relatively constant and

well-behaved as u → ±∞, so we say that

u2

φ(u) = s(u)e− 2 .

Now recall that the last step in asymptotic analysis is to plug this form into the original

diﬀerential equation to yield a diﬀerential equation that can be solved for s(u):

∂ 2s ∂s

2

− 2u + (ε − 1) s = 0. (0.19)

∂u ∂u

Before we solve this, we need to ﬁgure out the behavior of s(u). We know that it should grow

u2

less rapidly than e+ 2 as u → ±∞. Also, there should be multiple solutions corresponding

to discrete bound states. Finally, the nth solution should have n nodes.

∞

�

X

s(u) = aj uj (0.20)

j=0

8 8.04: Lecture 8

as our candidate solution. Plugging this into the diﬀerential equation yields

∞

�

X

((j + 1)(j + 2)aj+2 − (2j + 1 − ε)aj )uj = 0. (0.21)

j=0

Again, as this is true for all u, the overall coeﬃcients must all be identically zero. This

means that

2j + 1 − ε

aj+2 = aj (0.22)

(j + 1)(j + 2)

is the recursion relation. This relates every other coeﬃcient. This means that we need to

specify both a0 and a1 to ﬁnd all of the coeﬃcients. Why is this the case? It is because we

had a second-order diﬀerential equation. Does this meet our expectations? Let us consider

large j:

2j aj

lim aj+2 ≈ 2 aj ≈ j (0.23)

j→∞ j 2

so

C

aj ≈ j (0.24)

2

!

and

� uj

X X u2n

� 2

s(u) ≈ C j =C = Ceu . (0.25)

j 2

! n

n!

u2

Unfortunately, this is exactly what we do not want, as plugging this into φ(u) = s(u)e− 2

Remember from before that to get a normalizable wavefunction, we had to impose a speciﬁc,

discrete set of energies. If we can do that here, can we get things to work?

The only way out of this conundrum is that the series must be ﬁnite. In particular, let us

suppose that that there exists some n such that when j = n, the numerator 2j + 1 − ε = 0.

Then all of the subsequent aj = 0. Imposing that condition yields that ε = 2n + 1. But we

know that ε ≡ 2(Jω)−1 E. Therefore, the energy eigenvalues are

1

En = J n + ω. (0.26)

2

We now have our quantized energies! They are also evenly spaced as expected.

Note that imposing this condition only terminates either the odd series or the even series

because the recursion relation is spaced by two. We need to separately insist that the aj = 0

for the other series. This is ﬁne because it has been shown that if the potential is symmetric,

then the energy eigenfunctions can be taken to be either even or odd.

8.04: Lecture 8 9

Let us construct some solutions for this. For n = 0, we have ε = 1, so a2 = 0, and we can

impose that a1 = a3 = a5 = . . . = 0. This implies that s(u) = a0 , so

u2

φ(u; 0) = a0 e− 2 . (0.27)

For n = 1, we have ε = 3, so ﬁnding that a3 = 0 and imposing a0 = a2 = a4 = . . . = 0

implies that s(u) = a1 u, so

u2

φ(u; 1) = a1 ue− 2 . (0.28)

Repeating this process yields

x2

n 2En

Jω

φ(x; n)e+ 2a2

0 1 N0

2x

1 3 Nl1· a _

4x2

2 5 N2 · a2

−2

.. .. ..

. . .

x

n 2n + 1 Nn Hn a

where Hn (u) is the nth Hermite polynomial, which is a special set of polynomial functions.

Using the deﬁnition of these polynomials as used in mathematics yields

l mω _ 14 1

Nn = (2n n!)− 2 (0.29)

πJ

for the normalization factors.

• The energies are quantized as

1

En = J n + ω (0.30)

2

• There is

1

E0 = Jω (0.31)

2

as the nonzero ground state energy. This is not arbitrary; while the bottom of the well

is arbitrary, the ground state energy is 12 Jω above that bottom.

• The eigenfunctions satisfy the node theorem as Hn (u) is an nth-order polynomial in

u. These also satisfy even/odd parity.

• General states are given by

iEn t 1

cn e−i(n+ 2 )ωt φ(x; n).

�

X �

X

ψ(x, t) = cn e− �~ φ(x; n) = (0.32)

n n

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