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What makes localized energy eigenstates, localized?

  1. Feb 19, 2016 #1
    I'm reading about stationary states in QM and the following line, when discussing the time-independent, one-dimensional, non-relativist Schrodinger eqn, normalization or the lack thereof, and the Hamiltonian, this is mentioned:

    "In the spectrum of a Hamiltonian, localized energy eigenstates are particularly important."

    After that, the word "localized" is never apparently used again and hasn't been used prior in the text (these are lecture notes). What does localization mean here? If this is related to linear algebra, I haven't taken it and consequently don't know what it means. I'm having to assume for the current time that localization has to do with whether the energy eigenstate is bounded or not, but I'm not sure.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2016 #2
    Informally it means most of the probability density is confined in a region of space which is significantly smaller than the entire system. We would expect finite variance in position from this. An example of a non-localized quantum state would be a plane wave.
  4. Feb 20, 2016 #3
    And how would you show this for a plane wave? I'd imagine it would involve calculating the probability density of a plane wave, but I'm thrown off by the informal "most" of the probability part. That sounds like setting some arbitrary threshold wherein in some small region some percentage of the probability is in it, but that doesn't sound right.
  5. Feb 20, 2016 #4


    Staff: Mentor

    Since a plane wave is not square integrable its not a legit quantum state. If it was then it would exist throughout all space so is obviously not localizable.

    The way its handled in QM is you are really dealing with a Rigged Hilbert Space:

    You will understand it a lot better if you study distribution theory which IMHO should be in the tool-kit of any applied mathematician, not just those into physics

    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
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