Qualitative plots of harmonic oscillator wave function

  • #1
138
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Main Question or Discussion Point

For the harmonic oscillator, I'm trying to study qualitative plots of the wave function from the one-dimensional time independent schrodinger equation:

[tex] \frac{d^2 \psi(x)}{dx^2} = [V(x) - E] \psi(x) [/tex]

If you look at the attached image, you'll find a plot of the first energy eigenfunction for the HO. In the image, for x > 0, the the wave function is greater than 0 and the graph is concave down.

My question is: why can't the wave function be less than 0 and have the graph be concave up for this first eigenfunction? Put another way, why can't we simply mirror the attached image wave function over the x axis and have that be a valid first energy eigenfunction of the HO?

Is it just a choice of initial conditions of psi and the derivative of psi and that we chose them to be positive?
 

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Answers and Replies

  • #2
phyzguy
Science Advisor
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Remember that the wave function is complex and a function of time. You have only plotted one part of it (the real part perhaps) at one time. If you wait half a cycle, or if you multiply it by an arbitrary phase [itex] e^{i \pi} [/itex] then it will look like what you suggested.
 
  • #3
138
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Hey great points, thanks so much.

Just to confirm:

If I were presented with the wavefunction in the attached image above as well as the one I described and was asked to pick which of the two was a possible wave function for the first energy eigenfunction of the harmonic oscillator, then both are reasonable, correct?
 
  • #4
phyzguy
Science Advisor
4,572
1,507
Hey great points, thanks so much.

Just to confirm:

If I were presented with the wavefunction in the attached image above as well as the one I described and was asked to pick which of the two was a possible wave function for the first energy eigenfunction of the harmonic oscillator, then both are reasonable, correct?
I think so, yes.
 

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