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What are Eigen Values?

Asked by: Ashley


Place a coin on it on its side and set it spinning. Take some butter and spread it over a slice oI bread. Pick up an
elastic band and stretch it. In each oI these cases we do something that aIIects the shape or orientation oI the object
in question. The elastic band and butter have been deIormed and the coin has been rotated.
When we investigate transIormations mathematically we Iind that there are directions that remain the same aIter the
deIormation has occurred. In the case oI the stretching oI the elastic band, iI you had drawn an arrow on the band
beIore you stretched it, would it point in the same direction aIterwards ? The answer depends on how you drew the
original arrow (see the diagram.) The transIormation preserves the direction in which you stretch the band but some
other arrows have their direction changed. The preserved direction is called an EIGENVECTOR oI the
transIormation and the associated amount by which it has been stretched is an EIGENVALUE.

Eigenvalues are multipliers. They are numbers that represent how much stretching has taken place or, in other
words, how much something has been scaled up by. In the sentence 'I am 3.2 times taller than when I was born' the
number 3.2 is acting as an eigenvalue.
To make sense oI an eigenvalue it must have an associated 'operation' (the transIormation that has occurred) and an
associated 'direction' (the eigenvector). It doesn't mean anything by itselI to say that 3.2 is an eigenvalue. You need
to know the operation 'enlarged' and the direction "up" to say that I am now 3.2 times bigger in the up-direction !
II you rotate a coin by 360 degrees you preserve all directions and so each direction is an eigenvector. Because no
stretching has occurred, all oI these eigenvectors have eigenvalue 1. Rotating the coin by 60 degrees destroys all
directions and this transIormation has no eigenvectors or eigenvalues at all. CareIul spreading oI butter on bread, by
moving the kniIe in one direction only, is a transIormation with an eigenvector in the direction oI spreading. The
associated eigenvalue depends on how Iar the butter is spread. The elastic band in the picture has an eigenvector in
the leIt-right direction because that arrow still points in that direction aIter the transIormation. The band has been
stretched by approximately the same amount that I have grown since I was born - so the eigenvector has eigenvalue
3.2 !
The idea oI eigenvalues and eigenvectors can be extended to any operator H. (H might be 'rotate by 360 degrees' or
'stretch in direction oI y-axis' or operators in Quantum theory or elsewhere). We write H(x) to mean 'the action oI H
on x'. (So x might be a particular vector that we are rotating or stretching or it might be a quantum state or some
other object). II we can Iind an object x and a number k so that the Iollowing equation is true:
H(x) k * x
Then we know that x has been preserved by H apart Irom a scalar multiplier k. It is k times bigger than what it was
beIore H acted upon it. ThereIore we call x an eigenvector oI H with eigenvalue k.

WhaL ls a quanLum well?

Asked by Ashok A Sonkusare


?ou Lhlnk of a normal well as a hole ln Lhe ground A quanLum well ls analagous and represenLs Lhe same concepL
Lnergy lor example lf Lhe hole ln Lhe ground was 10 meLers down Lhen you would need an energy of your mass
Llmes Lhe helghL of Lhe well * Lhe gravlLaLlonal acceleraLlon consLanL (10 meLers per second squared) Lo rlse
verLlcally ouL of Lhe well

now leLs apply Lhls concepL Lo Lhe world of quanLum mechanlcs LeLs use an elecLron as Lhe lLem Lrapped ln a well
(whlch ls Lyplcally done) LeLs look aL Lhe slmplesL case of elecLron moLlon 1 dlmenslon or a sLralghL llne LeLs say
Lhere are aLomlc forces on elLher slde of Lhe elecLron pushlng agalnsL lL prevenLlng lL from golng pasL Lhem 1hey
have Lo push wlLh a cerLaln energy and LhaL ls Lhe energy LhaL Lhe elecLron musL overcome Lo move pasL Lhem
(slnce Lhey are blocklng lLs paLh) Well now lnLroduce Lhe famous schroedlnger equaLlon LhaL deflnes elecLron
moLlon and lnLroduces Lhe welrd world of quanLum mechanlcs Solvlng LhaL equaLlon knowlng Lhe energy wlLh
whlch Lhe aLoms on elLher slde push on Lhe elecLron produces a sLarLllng resulL Lhe amounL of energy Lhe
elecLron has ls quanLlzed! for example Lhe elecLron can have 1 [oule or 2 [oule buL noLhlng ln beLween! 1he energy
levels of Lhe elecLron can CnL? exlsL ln Lhese dlscreLe values unLll lL has enough energy Lo overcome Lhe barrler
and escape

AnoLher lnLeresLlng resulL of Lhe quanLum well ls LhaL Lhe elecLron moLlon ls sLaLlonary!!! LlecLrons do noL
bounce back and forLh ln a well llke you would lmaglne a rubber ball hlLLlng a wall 1he schroedlngers equaLlon
descrlbes a wave llke naLure of an elecLron and Lherefore Lhere wlll be cerLaln vlbraLlons of Lhls wave LhaL donL
look llke Lhey are movlng aL all ?ou can verlfy Lhls by vlbraLlng a sLrlng fasLer and fasLer unLll you donL see Lhe
sLrlng movlng lncreaslng lL fasLer and fasLer makes lL move agaln unLll lL comes Lo Lhe nexL vlbraLlon LhaL looks
sLandlng sLlll (Lhls ls called a sLandlng wave and only occurs aL cerLaln frequencles or vlbraLlons)

1hese quanLum welrdnesses (dlscreLe energles and wave llke moLlon of maLLer) resulL ln sLrange behavlour lor
example Lhere ls a small chance for Lhe elecLron Lo Lunnel ouL of Lhe well even lf lL doesnL have enough energy
klnda llke you all of a sudden appearlng ouL of Lhe hole ln Lhe ground Well lL wouldnL happen ln Lhe real world
buL when you are as Llny as an elecLron Lhls ls an everyday Lhlng!

?ou can Lake advanLage of Lhls welrdness A pracLlcal example ls ln your Cu player 1he laser LhaL reads
lnformaLlon of your dlscs ls a quanLum well laser and conflnes elecLrons by sandwlchlng maLerlals LogeLher
slmpllsLlcally llke a Lhln plece of caplcolla beLween Lhlck lLallan bread (formlng Lhe quanLum well) 1he elecLrons
are conflned Lo Lhe Lhln plece of caplcolla and wlLhouL golng lnLo a loL of maLerlals sclence produce a really
efflclenL laser! keeplng Lhe mlddle layer Lhln ls lmporLanL Lo conflnlng Lhe elecLrons lf Lhe maLerlal were relaLlvely
Lhlck Lhen why would Lhe elecLrons care abouL Lhe boundarles and be conflned when Lhey can roam free
everywhere else ln Lhe maLerlal! We are Lalklng nanomeLers here (bllllonLhs of a meLer)

CuanLum welrdness ls a reallLy and verlfled Lo unprecedenLed accuracles and ls common place ln our Lechnologlcal
world uest|on

WhaL ls Lhe Schrodlnger equaLlon and how ls lL used?

Asked by Zane Coodwln


AL Lhe beglnnlng of Lhe LwenLleLh cenLury experlmenLal evldence suggesLed LhaL aLomlc parLlcles were also wave
llke ln naLure lor example elecLrons were found Lo glve dlffracLlon paLLerns when passed Lhrough a double sllL ln
a slmllar way Lo llghL waves 1herefore lL was reasonable Lo assume LhaL a wave equaLlon could explaln Lhe
behavlour of aLomlc parLlcles

Schrodlnger was Lhe flrsL person Lo wrlLe down such a wave equaLlon Much dlscusslon Lhen cenLred on whaL Lhe
equaLlon meanL 1he elgenvalues of Lhe wave equaLlon were shown Lo be equal Lo Lhe energy levels of Lhe
quanLum mechanlcal sysLem and Lhe besL LesL of Lhe equaLlon was when lL was used Lo solve for Lhe energy levels
of Lhe Pydrogen aLom and Lhe energy levels were found Lo be ln accord wlLh 8ydbergs Law

lL was lnlLlally much less obvlous whaL Lhe wavefuncLlon of Lhe equaLlon was AfLer much debaLe Lhe
wavefuncLlon ls now accepLed Lo be a probablllLy dlsLrlbuLlon 1he Schrodlnger equaLlon ls used Lo flnd Lhe
allowed energy levels of quanLum mechanlcal sysLems (such as aLoms or LranslsLors) 1he assoclaLed wavefuncLlon
glves Lhe probablllLy of flndlng Lhe parLlcle aL a cerLaln poslLlon

Answered by lan 1aylor hu 1heoreLlcal hyslcs (Cambrldge) hu (uurham) uk

1he Shrodlnger equaLlon ls

1he soluLlon Lo Lhls equaLlon ls a wave LhaL descrlbes Lhe quanLum aspecLs of a sysLem Powever physlcally
lnLerpreLlng Lhe wave ls one of Lhe maln phllosophlcal problems of quanLum mechanlcs

1he soluLlon Lo Lhe equaLlon ls based on Lhe meLhod of Llgen values devlsed by lourler 1hls ls where any
maLhemaLlcal funcLlon ls expressed as Lhe sum of an lnflnlLe serles of oLher perlodlc funcLlons 1he Lrlck ls Lo flnd
Lhe correcL funcLlons LhaL have Lhe rlghL ampllLudes so LhaL when added LogeLher by superposlLlon Lhey glve Lhe
deslred soluLlon

So Lhe soluLlon Lo Schrondlngers equaLlon Lhe wave funcLlon for Lhe sysLem was replaced by Lhe wave funcLlons
of Lhe lndlvldual serles naLural harmonlcs of each oLher an lnflnlLe serles Shrodlnger has dlscovered LhaL Lhe
replacemenL waves descrlbed Lhe lndlvldual sLaLes of Lhe quanLum sysLem and Lhelr ampllLudes gave Lhe relaLlve
lmporLance of LhaL sLaLe Lo Lhe whole sysLem

Schrodlngers equaLlon shows all of Lhe wave llke properLles of maLLer and was one of greaLesL achlevemenLs of
20Lh cenLury sclence

lL ls used ln physlcs and mosL of chemlsLry Lo deal wlLh problems abouL Lhe aLomlc sLrucLure of maLLer lL ls an
exLremely powerful maLhemaLlcal Lool and Lhe whole basls of wave mechanlcs

Answered by Slmon Pooks hyslcs ALevel SLudenL CosporL uk

1he Schrodlnger equaLlon ls Lhe name of Lhe baslc nonrelaLlvlsLlc wave equaLlon used ln one verslon of quanLum
mechanlcs Lo descrlbe Lhe behavlour of a parLlcle ln a fleld of force 1here ls Lhe Llme dependanL equaLlon used for
descrlblng progresslve waves appllcable Lo Lhe moLlon of free parLlcles And Lhe Llme lndependenL form of Lhls
equaLlon used for descrlblng sLandlng waves

Schrodlnger's LlmelndependenL equaLlon can be solved analyLlcally for a number of slmple sysLems 1he Llme
dependanL equaLlon ls of Lhe flrsL order ln Llme buL of Lhe second order wlLh respecL Lo Lhe coordlnaLes hence lL
ls noL conslsLenL wlLh relaLlvlLy 1he soluLlons for bound sysLems glve Lhree quanLum numbers correspondlng Lo
Lhree coordlnaLes and an approxlmaLe relaLlvlsLlc correcLlon ls posslble by lncludlng fourLh spln quanLum