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California Association of Chemistry Teachers

Robert H. Maybury
University of Redlands
Redlands, California
The Language of Quantum Mechanics

No teacher of biology would talk to his


class about insects, animals, or growing plants outside
It is evident that the teacher of science strongly feels
the need to rely on concrete models to produce under-
of the larger context of evolution. This great theory standing. The scientist gathers together his ob-
of Darwin provides the very mood in which an in- servations of nature into a model as a means of ex-
formed study of biology t,akes place today. As chem- plaining these observations. Most models are vis-
istry teachers, we have a corresponding obligation t,o ualizations of the subject in terms of familiar, com-
tell our story of nature, the story of atoms, molecules, mon sense objects. I n this sense a model is closely
bonds, and electrons, in the mood appropriate to this related to an analogy, a comparison of an unfamiliar
modern day. This mood has been set by the great experience with a familiar ohject of experience with the
theories of quant,um mechanics developed in the 1920's. hope of rendering the unfamiliar experience more
Them is every bit as much grandeur and sweep to these recognizable or friendly, hence more understandable.
theories as t,hei-e is to the Darwinian picture of evolu- So it was that Michael Faraday compared the field of a
t,ion. magnet to elastic ribbons or lines of force.
Unfortunately, quantum mechanics has the ap- The use of models and analogies in science must
pearance of a formidable mathematical language. This always he accompanied with warnings not to take them
has prevented many science teachers from becoming too far. After all, a comparison between an un-
familiar with it (in contrast to the theory of evolution, familiar experience and something well known to us in
an essentially narrative account). Scientists are prop- experience would be an identity rather than an analogy
erly cautious about popularizations of their subject, if the two were identical, without the differences which
particularly when they are asked to eliminate the eventually show up when analogy is pressed too far.
mathematically precise statements so necessary for The most important ideas to keep in mind in using
accuracy. Little has been done, therefore, to bring models are that they are analogical representations of
down to ordinary speech the statements of this theory. our experiences with the unknown structures of nature,
But in teaching science it is all important that the that they are tentative (and will need to be altered as
right mood prevail so that the student might be en- additional experience is gained), and that they are in
couraged to master the intricacies of the suhject. It is no manner to be considered as duplicate pictures of the
the science teacher's task to create this mood, often by reality behind our observations. The reader may
popularizing or simplifying the quantitative theory. ohject to our claim that a model assists our under-
A theory may have value not only as a tool, in which standing of phenomena while at the same time we deny
form it provides the scientist with knowledge inac- that it is a literal picture of the reality which lies he-
cessible to him through experiment, but also as a hind the observed phenomena. Yet we must learn
language, in which form it provides a framework for this lesson: we have increased our understanding,
better understanding of the observations and concepts simply by putting our observations in a form with
of the suhject. I n the following presentation of which we are more a t home!
quantum mechanics, mathematical rigor and quantita-
tive accuracy have been sacrificed to provide the The Early Model of the Atom
teacher of chemistry with a view of quantum mechanics A study of the atom yields a considerable array of
which will serve him as a language for understanding phenomena to the experimenter. There are the sharp
the wide variety of concepts common to the work of the line series found through spectroscopy, the periodic
chemist t,oday--orhitals, resonance, hybrid bonds, and array of the chemical elements in the periodic table, the
the like. extraordinary stability of the atom as an organized
The chemistry classroom abounds these days with group of electrons about a nucleus, the characteristic
Styrofoam models of aboms, orbitals, and molecules. ionization potentials of the various elements, and the
magnetism manifest in a variety of effects. Early in
the 20th century the atom, through study of these
diverse phenomena, had become an ohject of intense
Presented as a series of lectures before the Annual Junior Col- curiosity to the scientist.
lege Workshop in Chemistry, a program ior the improvement of
instnntion in mathematics and the sciences in the Junior Colleges J. J. Thomson, producing convincing evidence for
of California under the National Defense Education Act, Tit!e 111. the existence of the negatively charged electron as a
Volume 39, Number 7, July 1962 j 367
constituent of an atom, postulated in 1904 a "plum- light waves, why in a corresponding manner should we
pudding" model of the atom consisting of a positive not associate waves, wavelengths, and all the other
sphere of charge in which the negative electrons were paraphernalia that belong to waves, with material
embedded like raisins! But Rutherford's important particles such as electrons! Nothing regarding such
scattering experiments followed almost immediately to waves associated with material objects had ever been
indicate that, instead, the positive charge was intensely observed and we must always credit de Broglie with an
concentrated on a minute and massive nucleus. amazing imagination to have suggested such a condi-
Clearly a more adequate model was called for. A big tion. Would we be any less critical than his pro-
step was needed in scienceas it so often is when the fessors were in the face of such a daring and wild sug-
number of separate pieces of data far outweigh the gestion? De Broglie persisted in his efforts to con-
picture or model at hand. The big step was made by vince his teachers and published his thesis finally with
Rutherford's genius. It was the nuclear atom with their less than enthusiastic permission. His startlingly
which we all are familiar. novel idea was that with a material particle such as the
Soon Niels Bohr picked up this planetary model of electron there is an associated wave. The wavelength
the atom and refined it to include the quantum idea of this wave is associated with the momentum of the
regarding the ultimate granularity of nature which particle through the following relationship, in complete
Max Planck had enunciated. Nature at base, said analogy to the photon-wave relationship for light waves:
Planck, is not continuous or fluid-like, but grain-like:
momentum (mu.)= h"
- h
-
energy, light, matter, are ultimately small grains of V
=
X
indivisible content. The orbits of the Bohr atom
provided for this quantization in the picture of the atom where:
by limiting the electron only to certain definite and m = mass of the electron
allowable orbits. = velocity of the electron
For a few years matters progressed nicely; but then = Planck's constant of action
v = frequency of the wave associated with the electron
difficulties began to appear. New experimental facts c = the wave velocity
were found through the guidance of the Bohr model and X = the wavelength of the associated wave
which placed a strain on the model. Sornmerfeld made
a valiant effort to modify the planetary atom model to The physics of waves says that for waves of any kind
allow for some of these by resorting to elliptical rather the wavelength, frequency, and wave velocity are
than circular orbits. But by 1920, what had seemed so related thus:
beautiful in 1912 was a wilted dream among scientists h" = v
throughout the world as the planetary atom model This allows us to work either with X (wavelength) or
headed into deep trouble. The model had been born in with v (frequency) in our equations. De Broglie knew
imagination at one period of time but its inherent that the photon and light wave ideas were not really
tentativeness led to its death. The time was again at clear to anyone who had tried t,o understand their as-
hand for a new Right of the imagination to generate a sociation in light theory. His assertion that waves
new model through which understanding could be were to be associated with a material particle such as
achieved. the electron did not clear up this confusion hut instead
only introduced greater confusion into science. Con-
De Broglie's Wave Mechanics sequently, though he did not bring any ordering into
A young French prince, attracted by the relativity atomic science in the 1920's, his imagination provided
theory Einstein had been publishing through this the all-important spark of suggestion that a model of
period of time, devoted his doctoral study to the char- an atom need not be built on t,he particle analogy alone:
acteristics of light. He was fascinated with the idea pay equal attention to the wave analogy!
that light waves exhibited interference and defraction Schrodinger Wave Model
phenomena explainable only on wave theory, and yet
they also showed properties attributable only to This is precisely the kind of thinking that another
particles, the photo-electric effect, for instance. Ein- European physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, began as soon
stein had termed these particles photons, and had as he came across de Broglie's strange idea. He pro-
associated with the wave length of the light a cor- posed a model of the atom entirely in terms of waves
responding momentum. He expressed this: rather than material particles as the Bohr planetary
model does. I n 1925, Schrodinger startled the sci-
hv entific world with the publication of his theory of wave
momentum = -
C
mechanics or quantum mechanics, in which the model
where : for the atom was taken to be a wave. And even today
our chemistry with its orbitals is a direct fruit of this
h Planck's quantum of action (an essential constant
=
wave model, for the Schrodinger idea has held out for
that appears in all equations in which the quantum
or granular aspect of nature is expressed) 30 or more years as a highly workable model of the
v = the frequency of the light atom. I n the section that follows we shall develop in
and c = the speed of light
some detail the framework of the Schrodinger quantum
This young prince, Louis de Broglie, nearly missed mechanics.
getting his degree by letting his imagination go too far Schrijdinger, convinced that a new model for
(in the judgment of his professors a t the University). the atom was needed, seized upon the clue to be
He made a wild suggestion that if photons with me- found in de Broglie's suggestion of a wave associated
chanical or particle-like properties were associated with with an electron. A good physicist, Schrodinrer
368 / Journal of Chemical Education
was of course familiar with the available experi- Figure 1 is termed the fundamental mode of vibration
mental information then pertaining to atoms. The of the string, and corresponds to a wave in which the
spectroscopists had published their work showing entire length of the string from one end to the other
that distinct lines characterized atomic spectra. B o b undergoes a displacement from the rest position.
and others had emphasized that any adequate model Other, higher modes of vibration can be induced in this
of the atom must incorporate the quantum ideas of string; the first ouertone occurs (Fig. 2 ) when the string
Planck, i.e., the model must provide for a series of dis- vibrates in such a way that its center point remains
crete energy levels in the atom. Bohr had shown how motionless and unmoved from its rest position. This
this requirement could be met by arbitrarily introducing fixed point on the string between the two tied-down ends
quantwn numbers, a series of integers, into his theory. is termed a node. Higher overtones occur in this string
As Schrodinger reflected upon these facts, the insight when additional nodes are located in the string as
came to him that the standing waves associated with shown in Figure 2.
vibrating objects, such as strings or drum heads and the These wave forms shown in Figures 1 and 2 may he
like, were mathematically expressible by equations in described more succinctly by simple trigonometric
which a set of integers necessady and naturally ap- expressionsin which y, the height above the rest position
peared. That was the point he sensed to be crucial. of any given point x along the string, is related to this
He needed only to find the right vihrating ohject as a point x. Thus, y = a sin s(x/Z), in which y is the
model and the standing waves for this object would amplitude, x is the position at a given point along the
have equations which contain this set of integers; string, 1 is the length of the bounded string, and a, a
these equations would then represent the electrons in an constant, describes the fundamental mode of vibration.
atom. Amazingly enough, he found the answer to his Each of the overtones is expressed similarly:
search for the right vibrating object in some mathe- v. = a sin n s ( s / l )
matical work by William Hamilton, the mathematical
genius of 100 years earlier. The vihrating ohject was a where n = 2 for the first overtone, n = 3 for the second
flooded planet-a uniformly deep ocean over a spherical overtone, and so on. Clearly this elementary con-
planet. Hamilton, evidently working out some mathe- sideration of a vibrating string has revealed one striking
matics connected with problems of the tides in which and highly significant feature regarding wave motion,
the moon perturbs the earth's ocean in a periodic namely, the perfectly natural association with the
manner, had idealized the problem by writing out the trigonometric expressions for the modes of vibration of
complete mathematics of the vibrations, that is, the a set of integers, the n = 1, 2, 3, 4 . . ., in the above
fundamental wave and the higher overtones, for a equations.
uniformly deep ocean over the surface of the earth. Schrodiuger, a competent physicist thoroughly
Schrodinger recognized in an instant that the solutions familiar with these mathematical aspects of vihrating
to the wave equation for this model were the equations objects, knew that a similar set of integers would
for these standing waves, and that these could rep- emerge from a mathematical treatment of the vihrating
resent the electrons in an atom. flooded-planet model. Again in more mathematical
Before taking a closer look a t this matter of waves, terms, what he recognized was that imposing boundary
wave equations, and solutions to wave equations, let us conditions upon the equation for wave motion of any
note that the familiar orbitals that we use in our vibrating ohject generates a set of expressions for the
chemistry teaching, the s, the p, and the d orbitals with corresponding standing waves. For a string, the
their characteristic shapes, are close to being three- equation for wave motion is:
dimensional plots of the mathematical equations for
these standing waves in this vihrating, flooded-planet
model worked out by Hamilton and applied to the
atom by Schr~dinger.
To carry our story beyond this point, especially to
appreciate the way these integers arise in any mathe-
matical treatment of waves, some familiarity with the
most elementary aspects of wave motion is required.
Suppose, then, that a string is stretched tautly between
two posts. Waves can be set up in this string simply First Overtone
by plucking it with the finger. Because the string is
not infinite in length hut instead is bounded on each end,
the vibration of the string when plucked leads to a set
of standing waves. The standing wave shown in
%
x- Second Overtone

A
O x- Third Overtone

Figure 1. figure 2.

Volume 39, Number 7; July 1962 / 369


I n this equation, u is the velocity of the wave in the wave motion in three dimensions:
string and indicates that this wave equation refers to a
vibration in a long, long string in which a wave pulse E"+-a=+ + -a = - - I a=*
ax"y2 asp u* at*
travels along the string toward one end or the other.
An interesting and useful thing happens to this wave In this equation the Greek letter \I. is used to represent
equation when we tie the string down at both ends (as the wave amplitude which in our string equation was
in the case of the string that we considered above, tied represented by y; u stands for the velocity of the
to two posts). Mathematically, we say that we are wave impulse through space; x, y, and z are the usual
imposing houndary conditions on the wave equation. Cartesian coordinates. Alternatively this equation
These conditions for the string tied on each end can be may be written in r, 8, and p, the spherical coordinates.
written mathematically as: Refering to one of the books cited in the bibliography
will reveal the form this equation takes in t,hese co-
at x = 0,y = 0; and at z = 2, y = 0,again ordinates.
When these boundary conditions are taken into account, A procedure similar to that used in obtaining the
the wave equation can be solved by a mathematical expressions for standing waves in the string is now
treatment referred to as "turning a differential equation followed. First, the time is eliminated from the wave
crank." Out fall the solutions to the wave equation, equation to yield an equation in which \I. is a function
the set of standing waves existing in this particular only of the space coordinates x, y, and z or r, 8, and p.
string tied down a t each end: This is accomplished by dividing the equation into two
parts, one containing time and one only the space co-
ordinates, and introducing into the part which depends
on space coordinates a term that indicates the periodic
where n is an integer having values 1, 2, 3 . . . . or wave-like aspect of this part. The result of these
I n going from the general form of the wave equation operations is an eqnation of this form:
to the solutions given above, several steps have been
omitted; these should be hinted a t here. F i s t of all,
in the general wave equation it is clear that y is really a
function of both x and t. The first step in solving that or its equivalent in r, 8, and p.
equation is to get rid of the time dependency, so that an Finally, the boundary conditions appropriate to the
equation for standing waves with y as a function of x flooded-planet model are imposed upon this equation
only remains. The mathematician who solves this for wave motion to generate a set of expressions for the
differential wave equation gets rid of the time by standing waves.
separating the wave equation into two parts, one part The genius of Schrodinger is most readily appreciated
depending only on x, the other part depending only on a t just this point, for he was the first to recognize the
the time. I n eliminating the part that depends on t h e fruitfulness of placing de Broglie's electronic wave
finds it necessary to introduce a term that imparts to length, X =h/mv, into this equation for wave motion in
the remaining portion of the equation, dependent only three dimensions. Thus, placing h/mv into the equa-
on x, a periodic or wave motion form. This term he tion above where X appears completes the analogy
writes into the equation either as a frequency or as a between an ordinary wave of experience and the elec-
wavelength. That this wave property of wavelength tron considered as a wave. After this suhstitution,
actually is embodied in the expression y = A sin n a the wave eqnation now appears as:
(xll) can he demonstrated thus: in the fundamental
mode of vibration, the wave length, XI, is equal to twice
the length of the string; in the f i s t overtone, Xz is equal
to the length of the string; and so forth. For all the A few changes using algebra alter this equation into the
harmonic vibrations in this string, the relationship form of the well-known Schrodinger wave equation.
between I and X, can be stated in this way: First of all, classical mechanics states that:
E = kinetic energy + potential energy
E = muZ V+
E = (mu)*
-+V
2m
Our solutions may Ly written, then, in this form: or rearranging:
v. = A , sin 2r(xjX,).
When we consider the vibrations in objects more
complicated than the string-the drum-head or a solid Substituting this relationship for momentum into our
object, for instance-we find that acoustical theory in wave equation, the wave equation now takes on the
each case provides a wave eqnation similar to that for form:
the string. Then in each case boundary conditions
suggested by the actual geometry of the vibrating
object can be imposed on the wave equation. These
cause the wave equation to yield solutions describing or rearranged:
standing waves made up of afundamental, overtone and
higher overtones. I n every case these equations are
rclated through a series of integers just as we found with
the simple string example. which is the well-known Schrodinger wave equation.
I n setting up his wave equation for an atom, SchrG When this eqnation describes electrons in an atom, V
dinger first had to write out the general eqnation for represents the electrostatic potential energy of the
370 / Journal of Chemicol Education
electrons in the field of the nucleus. Understandably, This probability interpretation of J. is such a re-
this field depends upon the nuclear charge. volutionary idea that some special attention to the
The part of the equation: proper interpretation of this amplitude function,
$2, needs to he given. Let us ask the question: Where
is the electron in an atom, say the hydrogen atom, an
atom with a nucleus with one positive charge and a
is commonly abbreviated Vz$. V may just as weU be single electron? Where is the electron on the basis of
expressed in terms of the spherical coordinates r, 8, and this quantum mechanical interpretation Born has
+ rather than the Cartesian coordinates x, y, and z. given to J.2? When the Schrodinger equation is solved
The wave equation now may be written more tersely: for the hydrogen atom, the solutions are equations of
the form:
* = Ae-),
where A and k are constants and r is the distance from
the nucleus. A graph of J.2, which is said to he pro-
portional to the probability of finding the electron at
The symbol H is given to a given point T from the nucleus plotted vs r has the
form shown in Figure 3.

allowing the equation to appear as:

Here is a revolutionary new wave equation. Its


solutions will correspond to a fundamental and the
higher harmonics of a wave for a vibrating substance. 0 I -
This vibrating substance is the model for the electron Figure 3.
of wave length A. Schrodinger reached this final stage
by recognizing that the boundary condition to be How shall we interpret this graph in our attempt to
imposed on this wave equation had, of course, to cor- reach an answer to the question, "where is the elec-
respond to something l i e the geometry of an atom. tron?" The best way is for us to play a End of game.
This he set as follows: the amplitude $ should become Pretend that the nucleus of the hydrogen atom were a
zero at a distance of infinity away from the center of golf ball placed on a chair. We, as some sort of atomic-
the atom. Imposing this novel boundary condition on sized observers with pencil, paper, and a stop watch in
this wave equation and "turning the crank" of the dif- hand, stand at a distance one foot away from the golf
ferential equation, he obtained solutions which were hall. We are now to look for the electron as it passes
the mathematical equations of a series of the standing our observation point in its flight in the vicinity of the
waves of this peculiar object he had chosen as a model nucleus. The electron may be imagined to be a bee
for the atom. These parts of these solutions which flying in this space. Occasionally the bee will fly in
depend only on the angles 8 and 6 match exactly solu- front of our nose while we stand a t this observation
tions for the flooded planet wave equation. The point one foot away from the golf ball on the chair and
orbitals we use so commonly are, very closely, three when it does, we place a stroke on our notepad with our
dimensional plots of these solutions. pencil. Keeping a record of the number of times we see
it a t this spot in a five-minute interval, we then take up
The Probability Interpretation of $ a new observation position out 2 ft from the golf ball
Now that a set of waves has been found which re- where we repeat this experiment of tabulating ap-
presents the electrons in an atom, we face (as Schrodinger pearances of the electron "bee" for another five-minute
faced) the puzzling question of the physical meaning of interval. Then we move out 3 ft from the golf ball,
these waves. Schrodinger thought these waves make counts for five minutes, and so on until we have
actually were the electrons and as a result he pictured an moved out 10 or 20 ft from the golf ball. Now we plot
electron spread out over space in the shape of these the results of these scores at each station to see what the
waves. But other physicists showed that this was a record may show us. Of course, our distances would be
highly untenable position. Many ideas were put forth Angstrom units, not feet, if we were to conduct this
concerning the interpretation of this amplitude of the imaginary game in the realm of .the real atom. As we
wave, J.,until finally Max Born proposed an answer of a can see (Fig. 4), the summary of our experiences of
most revolutionary nature. He startled the scientific
world with his assertion that this wave with an ampli-
tude of J. was not the electron at all, but was a wave of
probability or something very close to this. Actually,
he asserted that the square of J. (fi2) described the
probability that the electron would he found a t each
particular point in space. I n giving the wave this
probability interpretation he left, of course, as an un-
answered question the problem of the nature of the
electron itself. Figure 4

Volume 39, Number 7, July 1962 / 371


"seeing" the electron "bee" resembles the plot of the appear automatically aspart of the solutions for the wave
$2 function above. For the purposes of a rough analogy equation. The existence of energy levels in this wave
this is a perfectly good way to interpret what we mean picture of the atom is of interest. Just as a vibrating
about the answer to the question, "where is the elec- string possesses an energy that is characteristic for each
tron?" The wave equation gives a solution, $, which, harmonic mode of its vibration, so the energy of the
when squared and plotted against distance from the electron in an atom (or the energy level of the atom) is
nucleus, yields a probability plot. This plot tells us a t related to the orbital mode of the electron in that atom.
any given point r the number of times per unit time Quantum mechanics says all this very succinctly.
that we would experience the electron if we should look The Schrodinger wave equation, written as:
for it at that point. We must hasten to clean up this H* = E*
analogy a little bit in one respect, and that is to destroy
the notion that the electron can be thought of as literally yields a value for E, the energy of the atom, which is a
running around inside the atom making appearances a t function of the quantum number n primarily.
different points. I n reality it is absolutely impossible The magnitude of E is calculated by the above
to pin the electron down as a particle with a continuous, equation. $ represents a given state of the electron
unbroken path, running around like a bee, making and, of course, a particular solution to the wave equa-
appearances here and there. The very act of at- tion. There is a definite value of E that depends upon
tempting to "see" the electron leads to the electron the J' in question. If $ is the 1s $, for instance, mean-
showing itself as a point a t a given position. It is also ing that the electron is in the 1s orbital, then E has a
incorrect to think of the electron as being like a bee value characteristic of the 1s state. If J' is the 2s
flying around having intrinsic but unrevealed position orbital, that is, the electron is in the 2s state, E will
in between these acts of ours to measure its position. have a correspondingly different value. For the
Our only knowledge of this electron is that given by hydrogen atom these values of E can be calculated this
this $2 plot which is a statistical knowledge-a brand way for each fi corresponding to the various harmonics,
new way of knowing an object, indeed! The $2 plot is and these energy levels can be plotted on a graph.'
a summary of a large number of our experiences of the
Summary
position of the electron. It is meaningless to ask just
what the electron is other than this view. This is the This treatment of the atom has admittedly been a
most honest presentation possible of the new spirit in very qualitative handling of the Schrodinger wave
which we must talk about electrons in atomic systems mechanics and a more precise account of this story
and shows the radical sense in which wave mechanics should be read in a standard text. But the important
alters our view of fundamental matter. point established here is that these orbitals and the
corresponding ideas they lead to in chemistry-bond-
The Orbital Model ing, hybrid orbitals, etc.-are consequences of a rad-
ically different model of the atom, a wave model,
Now we are prepared to discuss the orbitals in some- initiated by de Broglie and completed by Schrodinger
what the same manner. The s orbital, as has always in his wave mechanics. We must establish this change
been noticed, is represented as a sphere. This spherical in essential viewpoint with our students to set the
orbital, a mathematical surface of spherical symmetry, proper mood for their study. They will fill in with the
is actually a plot of J'2 (in terms only of its angular more accurate details in their advanced study of
dependency). The significance of this surface is that quantum mechanics.
within it the electron would be found, if it were being Today the knowledge of the snb-atomic world of
looked for, about 90% of the time. Were we to go electrons in atoms has become considerably more
looking for the electron by making position measure complicated and mysterious as a result of the in-
ments, there is a nine-out-of-ten chance that the electron vestigations of the early part of this century. It is
would register a position signal with us inside of the clear that the electron exhibits behavior a t one time
surface of this sphere. We can consider the p orbitals like that of a particle, for instance, in the photoelectric
in a similar manner. There are three of these, which experiment, whereas at other times its behavior is that
are mathematical surfaces inside of which 90% of the of a wave, for instance, in diffraction experiments with
time we are likely to find an electron if we go looking crystals. This peculiar behavior of the electron has
for it. The same thing can be said for the five d or- been tidily summarized in the complementarity theory
bitals. Time must be spent studying this interpreta- of Niels Bohr in which he says that our knowledge of the
tion until its full significance is grasped. I n review, electron is a lot like that of the proverbial blind man
these surfaces are mathematical surfaces representing observing the elephant. Our knowledge depends upon
the fiZfunction (at least the part of that depends on the particular kind of observation we make. When
angle). They give the region inside of which the elec- we set up experiments to observe the electron as a wave,
tron makes an appearance 90% of the time in experi- the electron obliges us by behaving as a wave. When
ments performed to show up electron position. we set up experiments to observe the particle character
We must remember that Schrodinger had recognized of the electron, the electron obliges us by behaving as
the natural occurrence of a set of integers every time a a particle. What the electron really is, whether
wave equation is solved with boundary conditions
applying. This was one of the most rewarding out-
comes of solving the Schrodinger equation for the atom,
because the quantnm numbers n, I, and m (the principal ' For example, see Figure 2-19 in PAULINQ,LINUS,"Nature
of the Chemical Bond," 3rd ed., Cornell University Press, Ithaca,
quantum number, the quantum number for angular N. Y., 1960, p. 56. See also Figure 4 on page 290 of the June.
momentum, and the magnetic quantum number) all 1962, issue of mrs JOURNAL.

372 / journal o f Chemical Education


particle or wave or some combination of particle and models are not the ultimate realities behind the mys-
wave, is not a question we can answer. The electron teries. Fortunately, models are useful to us. I n
has the capacity for exhibiting both these behaviors and science we must learn to be content with usefulness as
probably has the capacity to exhibit other behaviors the best we can have with our finite understanding in
which we may not yet have set about to observe. a world of infinite mystery.
Our position is at least more tenable if we keep clear
in our minds the role of our models in science. To urge Bibliography
that the electron must he a particle or a wave is to D'Asao, A,, "The Rise of the New Phyaies," 2 Vol., Dover
mistake the model for reality. We remarked a t the Publications, New York, 1951.
outset that our models are, a t best, analogies which BRAITHWAITE, R. B., "Scientific Explanation," Harper Torch-
attempt simply to erect a comparison between some- book 515, New York, 1953.
COULSON, C. A,, "Valence," Oxford, London, 1952.
thing familiar and something strange to us. Waves HOFBT~AN, BANESH,"The Strange Story of The Quantum,"
and particles are familiar everyday objects to us. The Harper & Brothers, New York, 1947.
electron is still a mystery. Thus, we try to make it HEISENBEER, ~ s Philosophy," Harper & Brothera,
W., " P h r ~ i and
friendlier to us by a t one time comparing it to a wave, New York, 1958.
a t another time comparing it to a particle. Let us LINNETT, J. W., "Wave Mechanics and Valency," John Wiley &
Sons, Inc., New York, 1960.
remember that we come to terms with our experience SHERWIN, C. W., "Introduction to Quantum Mechmics," Henry
of nature's mysteries by turning to models, but these Holt & Co., New York, 1959.

Volume 39, Number 7, July 1962 / 373