Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Wavepacket vs. wavefunction

  1. Oct 20, 2008 #1

    I have a trouble understanding QM.
    What's the difference between wavepacket and wavefunction?
    Can we use a wavepacket for a particle in a box?
    Please reply to this questions.
    Thank you in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2008 #2
    a wavepacket is a wavefunction which is localized, meaning really high in some small region and small everywhere else. a wavefunction is just slang for a solution to the shrodinger eqn.

    here's a wavepacket


    see how it's really high around x=0 and hence it's square, which is the probability amplitude, in a very small range and zero everywhere else. hence the particle which this wave packet describes is most likely to have energy around x=0. therefore the energy is in some sense localized.

    here's another wave function


    the range of values where it's high, and hence it's probability amplitude is high, is just plain weird. hence you couldn't say it's energy is localized.

    really there's no difference between the two, it's slang. so if you want you can call the solution to the shrodinger eqn for a particle in a box a wavepacket, bob, or whatever you want- as long as you write down the correct mathematical formula.

    Attached Files:

  4. Oct 20, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    uhh... didn't you just ask this same question here:

  5. Oct 20, 2008 #4
    Yeah, I did. But I'm not quiet sure about the wavepacket. That's why I asked different subject. Also I think it's different thing.
  6. Oct 21, 2008 #5
    well do you understand my answer?
  7. Oct 21, 2008 #6
    Thanks, ice109.

    What you're saying is that the wavepacket has more or less localized energy at the average position even though the wavepacket is composed of lots of different momenta and for the wavefuction I can consider it like the excited state of paticle in a box. Right?
    Am I understood?
  8. Oct 21, 2008 #7
    you are understood but you've misunderstood me. so first tell me what is your native language and what level of quantum mechanics are you studying?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook