Physical Interpretation of a Wave Packet: Single Beat Wavepacket

In summary, the question was about writing the general expression for a wave packet using a Fourier integral and explaining its physical correspondence. One possible answer to the second part of the question is a continuous superposition of classical harmonic waves, where the wave vector is integrated and the waves are represented as complex exponential functions. Another interpretation is that the wave packet represents a system with uncertain energy and momentum due to being in a superposition of energy states. This was also suggested by a lecturer during an introductory quantum mechanics course.
  • #1
quasar987
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In my wave final there was a quetion that went "Write the most general expression for a wave paquet in terms of a Fourier integral and explain what this integral corresponds to physically."

What would have you answered to the second part of the question?
 
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  • #2
A continuous superposition (meaning integral wrt the wave vector) of (classical) harmonic waves (meaning complex exp of "i(kr-omega t)").

Daniel.
 
  • #3
quasar987 said:
In my wave final there was a quetion that went "Write the most general expression for a wave paquet in terms of a Fourier integral and explain what this integral corresponds to physically."

What would have you answered to the second part of the question?

I'd probably have said that it corresponded to a system whose energy and momentum was "uncertain", because it was in a superposition of energy states (and a superposition of momentum states, too).
 
  • #4
A wave whose 'beats' are infinitely far apart (i.e. the wavepacket is comprised of a single 'beat')?

This was the interpretation offered by one of my lecturers when I was studying introductory QM at uni.

Claude.
 

1. What is a wave packet and why is it significant in physics?

A wave packet is a localized disturbance or pulse that travels through a medium, composed of a group of waves with different frequencies and wavelengths. It is significant in physics because it allows us to describe the behavior of particles and matter as both a wave and a particle, known as wave-particle duality.

2. How is the concept of wave packets related to quantum mechanics?

In quantum mechanics, particles are described by wavefunctions, which are represented as wave packets. These wave packets have a finite width and represent the probability of finding a particle in a certain position. The concept of wave packets helps us understand the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics and the behavior of particles at the subatomic level.

3. What is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and how does it relate to wave packets?

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that it is impossible to know the exact position and momentum of a particle at the same time. This is because the more precisely we know the position of a particle, the less we know about its momentum, and vice versa. Wave packets illustrate this principle, as the more localized a wave packet is, the more uncertain its momentum becomes.

4. How do wave packets behave differently from regular waves?

Unlike regular waves, which have a constant frequency and wavelength, wave packets have a varying frequency and wavelength. They also have a finite width and travel through a medium at a finite speed. Additionally, wave packets can interact and interfere with each other, leading to phenomena such as diffraction and interference patterns.

5. What are some real-world applications of wave packets?

Wave packets have many applications, particularly in the fields of quantum mechanics and signal processing. In quantum mechanics, they are used to describe the behavior of particles, and in signal processing, they are used to analyze and manipulate signals. They are also used in various technologies such as lasers, radar, and wireless communication systems.

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