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Are wave functions and quantum waves synonyms?

  1. Nov 17, 2011 #1
    Are wave functions and quantum waves synonyms? If not, how do the meanings differ?

    I'm asking because wave functions are mathematical abstractions and can't be real. But in Objective collapse theories, Bohmian mechanics, they are said to be real. Or more accurately, should the correct words be thus.. "the quantum waves in say bohmian mechanics or objective collapse theories are real but their wave functions are mathematical abstractions"?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 18, 2011 #2
    No one knows the answer to this?
  4. Nov 19, 2011 #3
    A wave function is not a wave (quantum or otherwise). A 'wave function' describes the state of a quantum system. Also I do not know why you say that in objective collapse theories the wave functions are said to be real.
  5. Nov 21, 2011 #4


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    Funny, but I solve the Schrodinger wave equation and get a plane wave solution. How is ψ = exp(i(kx - ωt)) not a wave? Sure looks like a wave to me.
  6. Nov 21, 2011 #5


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    I don't think anyone uses the term "quantum wave".
  7. Nov 22, 2011 #6


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    By way of a question and not a contradiction, while people might not use the term ‘quantum wave’ and other formulations, e.g. matrix, might avoid the concept, Schrodinger’s wave formulation seems to be entirely based on wave mechanics and deBroglie’s idea of matter wave dispersion. If so, it would sems that only later did certain QM interpretations argue that ‘quantum waves’ were only a mathematical abstraction. So does the answer to the OP depend on which interpretation you favour?
  8. Nov 22, 2011 #7
    And a solution to the Klein-Gordon equation ψ_KG = exp(i(kx - ωt)) looks like a solution of the Schrödinger equation ψ_Sch = exp(i(kx - ωt)), but the ψ_KG cannot be physically interpreted as a quantum state, whereas the ψ_Sch can... Mystery? No, simply that physics is not math.
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