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Studying Bohr's atomic model

  1. Jul 21, 2017 #1
    I am trying to learn quantum physics on my own and while doing this I came across bohr's atomic model. What parts should I focus on the bohr's atomic model so advancing to schrodinger's equation will be easy?
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  3. Jul 21, 2017 #2


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    Bohr's model of atom is outdated and I believe can be safely skipped if you don't care too much about the historical timeline in the field of quantum physics. It successfully predicts some properties of the simplest atom, one-electron atom, such as energy levels. The same expression can obviously be obtained using the more formal Schroedinger equation approach. The derivation requires a bit of intermediate level calculus though, while the Bohr's model present it in a more empirical manner.
  4. Jul 21, 2017 #3


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    In my opinion, the only part of the Bohr model (and Sommerfeld's model that introduced elliptical orbits) that is worth "keeping" is the concept of discrete energy levels. The details of how Bohr "derived" the energy levels for hydrogen do not carry over to Schrödinger's model. Schrödinger's model uses fundamentally different assumptions and procedures, and produces a completely different "picture" of the structure of the atom: fuzzy "probability-clouds" versus sharp circular or elliptical orbits.

    You should study the details of Bohr's derivation only if you are deeply interested in the history of quantum physics, and can keep it separate from the study of "real" quantum mechanics. Bohr's model is mostly a dead-end or cul-de-sac as far as physics is concerned.

    I taught an "introductory modern physics" course for more than 20 years. In the early years, I spent some time on the derivation of the Bohr model. Later on, I simply introduced the energy-level formula and gave some examples and exercises on applying it to calculate photon energies in various transitions between levels. This gave me more time to spend on Schrödinger's model.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
  5. Jul 22, 2017 #4
    In my experience as an atomic physicist, the Bohr-Sommerfeld approach underpins lots of semiclassical ideas that always tended to be floating around when interpreting what is happening physically and not just beating the Schrodinger into submission with advanced numerical methods that offer little insight.

    Bohr-Sommerfeld is also the starting point for understanding other semiclassical methods like the WKB approximation and periodic orbit theory.
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2017
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