What is Wave functions: Definition and 153 Discussions

A wave function in quantum physics is a mathematical description of the quantum state of an isolated quantum system. The wave function is a complex-valued probability amplitude, and the probabilities for the possible results of measurements made on the system can be derived from it. The most common symbols for a wave function are the Greek letters ψ and Ψ (lower-case and capital psi, respectively).
The wave function is a function of the degrees of freedom corresponding to some maximal set of commuting observables. Once such a representation is chosen, the wave function can be derived from the quantum state.
For a given system, the choice of which commuting degrees of freedom to use is not unique, and correspondingly the domain of the wave function is also not unique. For instance, it may be taken to be a function of all the position coordinates of the particles over position space, or the momenta of all the particles over momentum space; the two are related by a Fourier transform. Some particles, like electrons and photons, have nonzero spin, and the wave function for such particles includes spin as an intrinsic, discrete degree of freedom; other discrete variables can also be included, such as isospin. When a system has internal degrees of freedom, the wave function at each point in the continuous degrees of freedom (e.g., a point in space) assigns a complex number for each possible value of the discrete degrees of freedom (e.g., z-component of spin) – these values are often displayed in a column matrix (e.g., a 2 × 1 column vector for a non-relativistic electron with spin 1⁄2).
According to the superposition principle of quantum mechanics, wave functions can be added together and multiplied by complex numbers to form new wave functions and form a Hilbert space. The inner product between two wave functions is a measure of the overlap between the corresponding physical states, and is used in the foundational probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, the Born rule, relating transition probabilities to inner products. The Schrödinger equation determines how wave functions evolve over time, and a wave function behaves qualitatively like other waves, such as water waves or waves on a string, because the Schrödinger equation is mathematically a type of wave equation. This explains the name "wave function", and gives rise to wave–particle duality. However, the wave function in quantum mechanics describes a kind of physical phenomenon, still open to different interpretations, which fundamentally differs from that of classic mechanical waves.In Born's statistical interpretation in non-relativistic quantum mechanics,
the squared modulus of the wave function, |ψ|2, is a real number interpreted as the probability density of measuring a particle as being at a given place – or having a given momentum – at a given time, and possibly having definite values for discrete degrees of freedom. The integral of this quantity, over all the system's degrees of freedom, must be 1 in accordance with the probability interpretation. This general requirement that a wave function must satisfy is called the normalization condition. Since the wave function is complex valued, only its relative phase and relative magnitude can be measured—its value does not, in isolation, tell anything about the magnitudes or directions of measurable observables; one has to apply quantum operators, whose eigenvalues correspond to sets of possible results of measurements, to the wave function ψ and calculate the statistical distributions for measurable quantities.

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  1. zaramahdi

    A Can particles appear and disappear "with" a cause?

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  2. J

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  3. Physics Slayer

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  4. raz

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  5. Hallucinogen

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  6. S

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  7. joneall

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  8. Riccardo Marinelli

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  9. A

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  10. DuckAmuck

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  11. F

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  12. L

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  13. F

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  14. S

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  15. J

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    Hi, Apologies if this questions is really easy but it is something quite subtle which is annoying me. In my book of quantum physics it gives a wave function of definite momentum: ψ = Aeipx/ħ It goes on to say that since there is a momentum 'p' in the exponential then the momentum is known...
  16. K

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  17. SherLOCKed

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  18. N

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  19. T

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    For example, I am following the below proof: Although the above derivation involves a projection on the position basis, it appears one can generalize this result by using any complete basis. So despite it not being explicitly mentioned here, are all wave functions with any continuum basis...
  20. J

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  21. RicardoMP

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  22. J

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  23. K

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  24. Y

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  25. S

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  26. amjad-sh

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  27. Negatratoron

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  28. PhysicsKid0123

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  29. R

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  30. W

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  31. C

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  32. K

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  33. D

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  35. A

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  36. J

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  37. ghost313

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  38. Khaleesi

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  39. P

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  40. 5

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  41. Ascendant78

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  42. T

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  43. L

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  44. VoidChimera

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  45. T

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  46. N

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  47. gfxroad

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  48. gfxroad

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  49. 0

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  50. S

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