Visualizing classical and quantum probability densities for momentum using variations on familiar one-dimensional potentials

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Abstract

After briefly reviewing the definitions of classical probability densities for position, PCL (x), and for momentum, PCL (p), we present several examples of classical mechanical potential systems, mostly variations on such familiar cases as the infinite well and the uniformly accelerated particle for which the classical distributions can be easily derived and visualized. We focus especially on a simple potential which interpolates between the symmetric linear potential, V (x) = F |x|, and the infinite well, which can illustrate, in a mathematically straightforward way, how the divergent δ-function classical probability density for momentum for the infinite well can be seen to arise. Such examples can help students understand the quantum mechanical momentum-space wavefunction (and its corresponding probability density) in much the same way that other semiclassical techniques, such as the WKB approximation, can be used to visualize position-space wavefunctions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-174
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Physics
Volume23
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2002

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

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