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Activities

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Finding Matrix Elements
In this small group activity, students multiply a general 3x3 matrix with standard basis row/column vectors to pick out individual matrix elements. Students generate the expressions for the matrix elements in bra/ket notation.

Problem

Diagonalization
  1. Let \[|\alpha\rangle \doteq \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \begin{pmatrix} 1\\ 1 \end{pmatrix} \qquad \rm{and} \qquad |\beta\rangle \doteq \frac{1}{\sqrt{2}} \begin{pmatrix} 1\\ -1 \end{pmatrix}\] Show that \(\left|{\alpha}\right\rangle \) and \(\left|{\beta}\right\rangle \) are orthonormal. (If a pair of vectors is orthonormal, that suggests that they might make a good basis.)
  2. Consider the matrix \[C\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 3 & 1 \\ 1 & 3 \end{pmatrix} \] Show that the vectors \(|\alpha\rangle\) and \(|\beta\rangle\) are eigenvectors of C and find the eigenvalues. (Note that showing something is an eigenvector of an operator is far easier than finding the eigenvectors if you don't know them!)
  3. A operator is always represented by a diagonal matrix if it is written in terms of the basis of its own eigenvectors. What does this mean? Find the matrix elements for a new matrix \(E\) that corresponds to \(C\) expanded in the basis of its eigenvectors, i.e. calculate \(\langle\alpha|C|\alpha\rangle\), \(\langle\alpha|C|\beta\rangle\), \(\langle\beta|C|\alpha\rangle\) and \(\langle\beta|C|\beta\rangle\) and arrange them into a sensible matrix \(E\). Explain why you arranged the matrix elements in the order that you did.
  4. Find the determinants of \(C\) and \(E\). How do these determinants compare to the eigenvalues of these matrices?

Problem

5 min.

Dirac Practice
For this problem, use the vectors \(|a\rangle = 4 |1\rangle - 3 |2\rangle\) and \(|b\rangle = -i |1\rangle + |2\rangle\).
  1. Find \(\langle a | b \rangle\) and \(\langle b | a \rangle\). Discuss how these two inner products are related to each other.
  2. For \(\hat{Q}\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 2 & i \\ -i & -2 \end{pmatrix} \), calculate \(\langle1|\hat{Q}|2\rangle\), \(\langle2|\hat{Q}|1\rangle\), \(\langle a|\hat{Q}| b \rangle\) and \(\langle b|\hat{Q}|a \rangle\).
  3. What kind of mathematical object is \(|a\rangle\langle b|\)? What is the result if you multiply a ket (for example, \(| a\rangle\) or \(|1\rangle\)) by this expression? What if you multiply this expression by a bra?

Writing an operator in matrix notation in its own basis is easy: it is diagonal with the eigenvalues on the diagonal.

What if I want to calculate the matrix elements using a different basis??

The eigenvalue equation tells me what happens when an operator acts on its own eigenstate. For example: \(\hat{S}_y\left|{\pm}\right\rangle _y=\pm\frac{\hbar}{2}\left|{\pm}\right\rangle _y\)

In Dirac bra-ket notation, to know what an operator does to a ket, I need to write the ket in the basis that is the eigenstates of the operator (in order to use the eigenvalue equation.)

One way to do this is to stick completeness relationships into the braket: \begin{eqnarray*} \left\langle {+}\right|\hat{S_y}\left|{+}\right\rangle = \left\langle {+}\right|(I)\hat{S_y}(I)\left|{+}\right\rangle \end{eqnarray*}

where \(I\) is the identity operator: \(I=\color{blue}{\left|{+}\right\rangle _{yy}\left\langle {+}\right|}\;+\;\color{blue}{\left|{-}\right\rangle _{yy}\left\langle {-}\right|}\). This effectively rewrites the \(\left|{+}\right\rangle \) in the \(\left|{\pm}\right\rangle _y\) basis.

Find the top row matrix elements of the operator \(\hat{S}_y\) in the \(S_z\) basis by inserting completeness relations into the brakets. (The answer is already on the Spins Reference Sheet, but I want you to demonstrate the calculation.)

  • Found in: Quantum Fundamentals course(s) Found in: Completeness Relations sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Hydrogen Probabilities in Matrix Notation
This activity reinforces the strategies students have been practicing on each system by letting them create their own matrix operators and columns on the hydrogen atom and do some calculations with them.

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Matrix Representation of Angular Momentum
This activity allows students to puzzle through indexing, the from of operators in quantum mechanics, and working with the new quantum numbers on the sphere in an applied context.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Vector Surface and Volume Elements

Students use known algebraic expressions for vector line elements \(d\boldsymbol{\vec{r}}\) to determine all simple vector area \(d\boldsymbol{\vec{A}}\) and volume elements \(d\tau\) in cylindrical and spherical coordinates.

This activity is identical to Scalar Surface and Volume Elements except uses a vector approach to find directed surface and volume elements.

  • Found in: AIMS Maxwell, Static Fields, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Scalar Surface and Volume Elements

Students use known algebraic expressions for length elements \(d\ell\) to determine all simple scalar area \(dA\) and volume elements \(d\tau\) in cylindrical and spherical coordinates.

This activity is identical to Vector Surface and Volume Elements except uses a scalar approach to find surface, and volume elements.

  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Curvilinear Volume Elements
Students construct the volume element in cylindrical and spherical coordinates.
  • Found in: Vector Calculus I course(s)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Total Charge
In this small group activity, students integrate over non-uniform charge densities in cylindrical and spherical coordinates to calculate total charge.

Problem

5 min.

Spin Matrix
The Pauli spin matrices \(\sigma_x\), \(\sigma_y\), and \(\sigma_z\) are defined by: \[\sigma_x= \begin{pmatrix} 0&1\\ 1&0\\ \end{pmatrix} \hspace{2em} \sigma_y= \begin{pmatrix} 0&-i\\ i&0\\ \end{pmatrix} \hspace{2em} \sigma_z= \begin{pmatrix} 1&0\\ 0&-1\\ \end{pmatrix} \] These matrices are related to angular momentum in quantum mechanics.
  1. By drawing pictures, convince yourself that the arbitrary unit vector \(\hat n\) can be written as: \[\hat n=\sin\theta\cos\phi\, \hat x +\sin\theta\sin\phi\,\hat y+\cos\theta\,\hat z\] where \(\theta\) and \(\phi\) are the parameters used to describe spherical coordinates.
  2. Find the entries of the matrix \(\hat n\cdot\vec \sigma\) where the “matrix-valued-vector” \(\vec \sigma\) is given in terms of the Pauli spin matrices by \[\vec\sigma=\sigma_x\, \hat x + \sigma_y\, \hat y+\sigma_z\, \hat z\] and \(\hat n\) is given in part (a) above.

Small White Board Question

5 min.

Representations of Vectors
Students each recall a representation of vectors that they have seen before and record it on an individual whiteboard. The instructor uses these responses to generate a whole class discussion that compares and contrasts the features of the representations. If appropriate for the class, the instructor introduces bra/ket notation as a new, but valuable representation.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Linear Transformations
Students explore what linear transformation matrices do to vectors. The whole class discussion compares & contrasts several different types of transformations (rotation, flip, projections, “scrinch”, scale) and how the properties of the matrices (the determinant, symmetries, which vectors are unchanged) are related to these transformations.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Going from Spin States to Wavefunctions
Students review using the Arms representation to represent states for discrete quantum systems and connecting the Arms representation to histogram and matrix representation. The student then extend the Arms representation to begin exploring the continuous position basis.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Working with Representations on the Ring
This activity acts as a reintroduction to doing quantum calculations while also introducing the matrix representation on the ring, allowing students to discover how to index and form a column vector representing the given quantum state. In addition, this activity introduces degenerate measurements on the quantum ring and examines the state after measuring both degenerate and non-degenerate eigenvalues for the state.

Computational Activity

120 min.

Position operator
Students find matrix elements of the position operator \(\hat x\) in a sinusoidal basis. This allows them to express this operator as a matrix, which they can then numerically diagonalize and visualize the eigenfunctions.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Vector Differential--Curvilinear

In this small group activity, students are given a picture as a guide. They then write down an algebraic expression for the vector differential in different coordinate systems (cartesian, cylindrical, spherical).

Use Vector Differential--Rectangular as an introduction. This activity can be done simultaneously with Pineapples and Pumpkins where students or the instructor cut volume elements out of pineapples and/or pumpkins to show the geometry.

Whole Class Activity

10 min.

Pineapples and Pumpkins

There are two versions of this activity:

As a whole class activity, the instructor cuts a pumpkin in order to produce a small volume element \(d\tau\), interspersing their work with a sequence of small whiteboard questions. This version of the activity is described here.

As a small group activity, students are given pineapple rounds and pumpkin wedges to explore area and volume elements in cylindrical and spherical coordinate systems. In this version of the activity, the fruit is distributed to the students with appropriate children's pumpkin cutting equipment, as part of activities Vector Differential--Curvilinear, Scalar Surface and Volume Elements, or Vector Surface and Volume Elements.

  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Surfaces/Bridge Workshop, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence sequence(s)
Students calculate probabilities for a particle on a ring using three different notations: Dirac bra-ket, matrix, and wave function. After calculating the angular momentum and energy measurement probabilities, students compare their calculation methods for notation.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Quantum Calculations on the Hydrogen Atom

Students are asked to find eigenvalues, probabilities, and expectation values for \(H\), \(L^2\), and \(L_z\) for a superposition of \(\vert n \ell m \rangle\) states. This can be done on small whiteboards or with the students working in groups on large whiteboards.

Students then work together in small groups to find the matrices that correspond to \(H\), \(L^2\), and \(L_z\) and to redo \(\langle E\rangle\) in matrix notation.

Kinesthetic

10 min.

Spin 1/2 with Arms
Students, working in pairs, use their left arms to represent each component in a two-state quantum spin 1/2 system. Reinforces the idea that quantum states are complex valued vectors. Students make connections between Dirac, matrix, and Arms representation.

Computational Activity

120 min.

Kinetic energy
Students implement a finite-difference approximation for the kinetic energy operator as a matrix, and then use numpy to solve for eigenvalues and eigenstates, which they visualize.
Students are asked to review:
  • Addition of matrices
  • Multiplication of a matrix by a scalar
  • Matrix multiplication
  • Finding the determinant of a matrix
in preparation for an in-class quiz.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Wavefunctions on a Quantum Ring
This activity lets students explore translating a wavefunction that isn't obviously made up of eigenstates at first glance into ket and matrix form. Then students explore wave functions, probabilities in a region, expectation values, and what wavefunctions can tell you about measurements of \(L_z\).