Confused about electron spin (stern gerlach experiment)

In summary, the conversation discusses the splitting of a beam of hydrogen atoms in a nonuniform magnetic field, with each electron having a spin and generating a tiny magnetic field that can have two values. The electrons remain bound to their nuclei and the experiment does not work with free electrons. Some hydrogen atoms may have electrons with different spin orientations.
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Here is a diagram to help understand what I'm talking about:
Electron1Magnet.jpg


My textbook had a similar diagram that depicted the beam traveling between the two magnets as hydrogen atoms. Here is how my textbook describes it:

"When a beam of atoms that have one or more lone electrons passes through a nonuniform magnetic field (created by magnet faces with different shapes), it splits into two beams. Each electron behaves like a spinning charge and generates a tiny magnetic field, which can have one of two values of spin. The two electron fields have opposing directions, so half of the electrons are attracted by the large external magnetic field while the other half are repelled by it."

So are the electrons actually being stripped away from the nucleus by the magnetic field, which then travel in two directions, or are the entire atoms being deflected in two directions?

And my other question, do some hydrogen atoms have electrons with spin +1/2 while other H atoms have electrons with spin -1/2?
 
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  • #2
The electrons remain bound to the corresponding nuclei. The experiment does not work with free electrons as the deflection due to Lorentz forces would outweight the spin effect.
To the last question: Some electrons will show a z-component (assuming that the magnetic field is in the z-direction) of + or - 1/2. Spin is a vector, so it can orient differently with respect to an external field.
 

1. What is the Stern Gerlach experiment?

The Stern Gerlach experiment is a classic experiment in quantum mechanics that demonstrated the concept of electron spin. It involves passing a beam of electrons through an inhomogeneous magnetic field and observing how the beam splits into two distinct paths.

2. How does the Stern Gerlach experiment demonstrate electron spin?

The experiment showed that the beam of electrons splits into two paths, indicating that the electrons have two different spin states: spin up and spin down. This suggests that electrons have an intrinsic angular momentum, or spin, which can have only two possible values.

3. What is the significance of the Stern Gerlach experiment?

The Stern Gerlach experiment was one of the first experiments to provide evidence for the existence of electron spin, which is an important property that affects the behavior of atoms and molecules. It also helped pave the way for the development of quantum mechanics and our understanding of the subatomic world.

4. How does the Stern Gerlach experiment relate to quantum mechanics?

The experiment demonstrated that the behavior of electrons cannot be fully explained by classical physics and that quantum mechanics is necessary to understand their properties. It also showed that electrons have quantized spin states, which is a key concept in quantum mechanics.

5. What are some real-world applications of the Stern Gerlach experiment?

The Stern Gerlach experiment has played a crucial role in the development of technologies such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy. It has also been used to study the properties of other particles, such as neutrons and protons, and has implications for the field of quantum computing.

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