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The Definition of Waves in Quantum Mechanics

  1. Sep 9, 2010 #1
    I hear the term Wave used in extreme frequencies whenever Quantum Mechanics is discussed but im not entirely sure what exactly is a wave.
    Can a wave be thought as a particle whose position is unspecified with multiple areas where it may impact the surface of another object.
    Or is a wave a group of particles bundled up?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 10, 2010 #2
    A wave is a wave. It is a function on the configuration space (3n-dimensional for an n-particle system), not in the ordinary space. It has values in some vector space. For an electron with spin it will be 2 or 4 dimensional complex.

    There are different kind of waves. Almost every parameter of a physical system can sometimes behave in a wavy way.

    The "waves" in quantum theory of one particle determine the probabilities of the response of particle's detectors (you can try to detect position, momentum, energy, spin). Their generation and propagation depends on the whole experimental situation. The rest is in the math.
  4. Sep 10, 2010 #3


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    Wave is collective behavior of particles that can not be explained by independent behavior of each particle separately.
  5. Sep 10, 2010 #4
    A wave in quantum mechanics is something that behaves like a wave.

    Think 'oscillatory'.
  6. Sep 10, 2010 #5
    I just want to be clear, are we talking about "wave" or "wavefuntion"? The former is Granpa's reading, the latter is the probabilistic reading of Zonde (I think)
  7. Sep 13, 2010 #6
    Wave-particle duality may be a misnomer and Field-particle duality may be the right term.
  8. Sep 13, 2010 #7
    Then again, it might not be.
  9. Sep 13, 2010 #8
    The oscillating quantity in a quantum mechanics wavefunction (which is a wave) is an abstract number such that when it is squared, the new number is the probability that the system is in a particular state. A state may contain everything that is measurable about one or many particles including their locations, momenta, and energies.

    Put another way, the oscillating quantity is the root of the probability of having a specific series of numbers describing a physical system, at time t (usually).
  10. Sep 26, 2010 #9
    Yet another form of uncertainty?
  11. Sep 26, 2010 #10
    No, I was dismissing what you said in a sarcastic fashion, if I recall. This was nearly 2 weeks ago... but that's how I remember it.
  12. Sep 26, 2010 #11
    Your dismissal that necessitated sarcasm is well appreciated... but you could have done better without it.
  13. Sep 26, 2010 #12
    Perhaps... it was a 6 word post 2 weeks ago, it's not ringing a lot of bells for me.
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