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I Name for electron's trajectory outside of the orbit?

  1. Mar 14, 2017 #1
    I wonder if this question will make sense, but I will do my best shot:

    As the electron orbits around the nucleus, I imagine there are moments when it is too far away, so it starts to be "pulled toward" the nucleus. If it gets too close, it will be "pushed away". If it is in the orbital area, that is where it will be most stable, or balanced and that is why it will mostly stick around there. I am assuming this is the general understanding of how the electron "spins" around the nucleus, at least when viewed as a particle.

    My question: is there a name for electron's veering off the orbital area? If it goes off too far, it will come back and then probably get too close before it settles back in the orbit area? And I imagine it does this all time, like when riding a bike, one needs to constantly adjust one's balance. Does this even happen this way? And if yes, is there a name for the variance in the trajectory?

    Many thanks for any feedback!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 14, 2017 #2

    mfb

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    No such thing happens. The electron does not even move if it is in an energy eigenstate: Its wave function is static.
     
  4. Mar 14, 2017 #3
    Thanks for your response mfb. I didn't realize electron was that much a wave in a quantum state. From that angle, the term I am trying to find is the pulsating frequency of a given orbital (whether it is a particle reversing direction, or a wave going through its "pluse"). So I guess the answer is in the domain of "frequency".
    And from there, how often does an electron "pulsate", or a given orbit with electron(s) pulsate?

    Is there an official terminology for all this if I have mocked it up?
    I hope I made sense with this one.
    Many thanks again!
     
  5. Mar 14, 2017 #4

    mfb

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    An electron does not "pulsate" either, no matter what exactly that word means here.
     
  6. Mar 14, 2017 #5
    I didn't assume electrons were literally "pulsating". That's why I put it in quotes. I am trying to learn a terminology for a property.

    In wikipedia "Atomic orbital" page, it says this:
    "The electrons do not orbit the nucleus in the manner of a planet orbiting the sun, but instead exist as standing waves. The lowest possible energy an electron can take is therefore analogous to the fundamental frequency of a wave on a string. Higher energy states are then similar to harmonics of the fundamental frequency."

    You said above that the electron doesn't even move. In that case, does this sentence even hold? Unless the sentence is completely wrong, then it leads me to think that there is some sort of an "recursive energetic oscillation", just like a light bulb pulsates, a string physically vibrates, or a planet spins around the sun.

    I am hoping to learn what the thing is that creates "frequency" in the concept of an orbital containing electrons? Because frequency directly implies recursion of a system that in some way changes through time. Perhaps the word "frequency" in this case means something else?
     
  7. Mar 15, 2017 #6
    This is what I found so far:
    "These frequencies are NOT the time it takes for an electron to orbit around the nucleus. These frequencies are how often the phase of the complex wavefunction goes through the full 2π phase angle to arrive back at it's original phase angle."
    Source: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-frequency-of-an-orbiting-electron

    So looks like it is ambiguous as to what is really going on, and that instead, there are designed equations that have "frequencies", not the system itself?
     
  8. Mar 15, 2017 #7

    mfb

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    That statement is correct, but you have to be careful with the analogy and don't take it too far.
    The electron does not oscillate.

    The phase of the wave function is not observable. It is a mathematical description. You can calculate how quick the electron returns to the same phase in a given framework, but you cannot measure it - not even in principle. Even worse, you can modify the equations a bit and you'll get a different frequency - without changing any observations.
     
  9. Mar 15, 2017 #8
    Many thanks for your response. That really helps.

    It seems the closest analogy in my head is as if I were trying to figure out what is going on in a really fast spinning wheel or helicopter blades and I only had a camera to take a picture with.
    Depending on different frequencies, the blades would give a different effect, but only taking a picture would reveal that they are just static blades, positioned at different times. Then I could write an equation trying to figure out how fast it "spins", trying to approximate it, especially since if the speed of the blades doubles, the system would look the same, and so on.

    Not sure if this analogy holds in any way since the macro world is still not micro world, but I understand the uncertainty of the whole system and that the equations are there just for description and any frequencies associated are mathematical.

    Many thanks again!
     
  10. Mar 15, 2017 #9

    mfb

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    That is a completely wrong approach. That would assume something is moving. The electron is not moving.
     
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