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No free particle in real world

  1. May 5, 2005 #1
    maybe it is an easy question but i confuse a bit

    wave func of free particle is A exp(ikx) and probability over all space is
    A^2 so it is possible to find this particle everywhere

    Does it mean "there exist no free particle in real world" ?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2005 #2


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    At some point, you have to consider what is "small enough" to no longer be significant, and what is "large enough" to consider it to be edgeless.

    On paper, the influence of the gravity from Alpha Centauri is not zero. But it would look silly if all our dynamical description would have to include such things. The same thing with "free electron". Compare to its "size", such as its deBroglie wavelength, there are MANY situation in which the electron has no clue that it has a boundary. In a typical metal, the conduction electron in your tiny wires can be considered as "free" electrons. This is because using such an approximation (called the Drude model), we could obtain practically all the usual properties of a conductor, such as Ohm's Law. When it works this well, it is very difficult to argue that such an assumption is incorrect.

    Other situations such as in particle accelerators explicitly considers charged particles/electrons to be free.

  4. May 5, 2005 #3


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    ...with a completely definite value of momentum [itex]p[/itex], that is, [itex]\Delta p = 0[/itex]...

    ...where [itex]k = p / \hbar[/itex]...

    ...that is, [itex]\Delta x = \infty[/itex].

    No, it means, "there exist no free particle with [itex]\Delta p = 0[/itex] in the real world." A realistic wave function for a free particle is a wave packet: a superposition of waves with a finite spread [itex]\Delta p[/itex] in momentum, which leads to a finite spatial width [itex]\Delta x[/itex] according to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.
  5. May 6, 2005 #4

    Meir Achuz

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    Doing physics means making appropriate approximations.
    The plane wave WF is very useful for many of these.
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