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This is a glossary for the terminology often encountered in undergraduate quantum mechanics courses.
Part of a wave function of particle(s). See "total wave function of a particle".
Synonymous to "spin wave function".
Part of a wave function of particle(s). See "total wave function of a particle".
In quantum mechanics, bra–ket notation, or Dirac notation, is ubiquitous. The notation uses the angle brackets, "" and "", and a vertical bar "", to construct "bras" and "kets". A ket looks like "". Mathematically it denotes a vector, , in an abstract (complex) vector space , and physically it represents a state of some quantum system. A bra looks like "", and mathematically it denotes a linear functional , i.e. a linear map that maps each vector in to a number in the complex plane . Letting the linear functional act on a vector is written as .
In quantum mechanics, the Hamiltonian of a system is an operator corresponding to the total energy of that system, including both kinetic energy and potential energy. Its spectrum, the system's energy spectrum or its set of energy eigenvalues, is the set of possible outcomes obtainable from a measurement of the system's total energy. Due to its close relation to the energy spectrum and time-evolution of a system, it is of fundamental importance in most formulations of quantum theory.
In quantum mechanics, the uncertainty principle is any of a variety of mathematical inequalities asserting a fundamental limit to the accuracy with which the values for certain pairs of physical quantities of a particle, such as position, x, and momentum, p, can be predicted from initial conditions. Such variable pairs are known as complementary variables or canonically conjugate variables, and, depending on interpretation, the uncertainty principle limits to what extent such conjugate properties maintain their approximate meaning, as the mathematical framework of quantum physics does not support the notion of simultaneously well-defined conjugate properties expressed by a single value. The uncertainty principle implies that it is in general not possible to predict the value of a quantity with arbitrary certainty, even if all initial conditions are specified.
The quantum harmonic oscillator is the quantum-mechanical analog of the classical harmonic oscillator. Because an arbitrary smooth potential can usually be approximated as a harmonic potential at the vicinity of a stable equilibrium point, it is one of the most important model systems in quantum mechanics. Furthermore, it is one of the few quantum-mechanical systems for which an exact, analytical solution is known.
The Schrödinger equation is a linear partial differential equation that describes the wave function or state function of a quantum-mechanical system. It is a key result in quantum mechanics, and its discovery was a significant landmark in the development of the subject. The equation is named after Erwin Schrödinger, who postulated the equation in 1925, and published it in 1926, forming the basis for the work that resulted in his Nobel Prize in Physics in 1933.
A wave function in quantum physics is a mathematical description of the quantum state of an isolated quantum system. The wave function is a complex-valued probability amplitude, and the probabilities for the possible results of measurements made on the system can be derived from it. The most common symbols for a wave function are the Greek letters ψ and Ψ.
In physics, an operator is a function over a space of physical states onto another space of physical states. The simplest example of the utility of operators is the study of symmetry. Because of this, they are very useful tools in classical mechanics. Operators are even more important in quantum mechanics, where they form an intrinsic part of the formulation of the theory.
In quantum mechanics, a probability amplitude is a complex number used in describing the behaviour of systems. The modulus squared of this quantity represents a probability or probability density.
In physics, the S-matrix or scattering matrix relates the initial state and the final state of a physical system undergoing a scattering process. It is used in quantum mechanics, scattering theory and quantum field theory (QFT).
Creation and annihilation operators are mathematical operators that have widespread applications in quantum mechanics, notably in the study of quantum harmonic oscillators and many-particle systems. An annihilation operator lowers the number of particles in a given state by one. A creation operator increases the number of particles in a given state by one, and it is the adjoint of the annihilation operator. In many subfields of physics and chemistry, the use of these operators instead of wavefunctions is known as second quantization.
The adiabatic theorem is a concept in quantum mechanics. Its original form, due to Max Born and Vladimir Fock (1928), was stated as follows:
In physics, a free particle is a particle that, in some sense, is not bound by an external force, or equivalently not in a region where its potential energy varies. In classical physics, this means the particle is present in a "field-free" space. In quantum mechanics, it means a region of uniform potential, usually set to zero in the region of interest since potential can be arbitrarily set to zero at any point in space.
In quantum mechanics, the Hellmann–Feynman theorem relates the derivative of the total energy with respect to a parameter, to the expectation value of the derivative of the Hamiltonian with respect to that same parameter. According to the theorem, once the spatial distribution of the electrons has been determined by solving the Schrödinger equation, all the forces in the system can be calculated using classical electrostatics.
In quantum mechanics, the momentum operator is the operator associated with the linear momentum. The momentum operator is, in the position representation, an example of a differential operator. For the case of one particle in one spatial dimension, the definition is:
Photon polarization is the quantum mechanical description of the classical polarized sinusoidal plane electromagnetic wave. An individual photon can be described as having right or left circular polarization, or a superposition of the two. Equivalently, a photon can be described as having horizontal or vertical linear polarization, or a superposition of the two.
The theoretical and experimental justification for the Schrödinger equation motivates the discovery of the Schrödinger equation, the equation that describes the dynamics of nonrelativistic particles. The motivation uses photons, which are relativistic particles with dynamics described by Maxwell's equations, as an analogue for all types of particles.
In many-body theory, the term Green's function is sometimes used interchangeably with correlation function, but refers specifically to correlators of field operators or creation and annihilation operators.
In quantum physics, a quantum state is a mathematical entity that provides a probability distribution for the outcomes of each possible measurement on a system. Knowledge of the quantum state together with the rules for the system's evolution in time exhausts all that can be predicted about the system's behavior. A mixture of quantum states is again a quantum state. Quantum states that cannot be written as a mixture of other states are called pure quantum states, while all other states are called mixed quantum states. A pure quantum state can be represented by a ray in a Hilbert space over the complex numbers, while mixed states are represented by density matrices, which are positive semidefinite operators that act on Hilbert spaces.
In quantum mechanics, the variational method is one way of finding approximations to the lowest energy eigenstate or ground state, and some excited states. This allows calculating approximate wavefunctions such as molecular orbitals. The basis for this method is the variational principle.
The eigenstate thermalization hypothesis is a set of ideas which purports to explain when and why an isolated quantum mechanical system can be accurately described using equilibrium statistical mechanics. In particular, it is devoted to understanding how systems which are initially prepared in far-from-equilibrium states can evolve in time to a state which appears to be in thermal equilibrium. The phrase "eigenstate thermalization" was first coined by Mark Srednicki in 1994, after similar ideas had been introduced by Josh Deutsch in 1991. The principal philosophy underlying the eigenstate thermalization hypothesis is that instead of explaining the ergodicity of a thermodynamic system through the mechanism of dynamical chaos, as is done in classical mechanics, one should instead examine the properties of matrix elements of observable quantities in individual energy eigenstates of the system.