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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.

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.

At low temperatures, a diatomic molecule can be well described as a rigid rotor. The Hamiltonian of such a system is simply proportional to the square of the angular momentum \begin{align} H &= \frac{1}{2I}L^2 \end{align} and the energy eigenvalues are \begin{align} E_{\ell m} &= \hbar^2 \frac{\ell(\ell+1)}{2I} \end{align}

  1. What is the energy of the ground state and the first and second excited states of the \(H_2\) molecule? i.e. the lowest three distinct energy eigenvalues.

  2. At room temperature, what is the relative probability of finding a hydrogen molecule in the \(\ell=0\) state versus finding it in any one of the \(\ell=1\) states?
    i.e. what is \(P_{\ell=0,m=0}/\left(P_{\ell=1,m=-1} + P_{\ell=1,m=0} + P_{\ell=1,m=1}\right)\)

  3. At what temperature is the value of this ratio 1?

  4. At room temperature, what is the probability of finding a hydrogen molecule in any one of the \(\ell=2\) states versus that of finding it in the ground state?
    i.e. what is \(P_{\ell=0,m=0}/\left(P_{\ell=2,m=-2} + P_{\ell=2,m=-1} + \cdots + P_{\ell=2,m=2}\right)\)

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Time Evolution of a Spin-1/2 System
In this small group activity, students solve for the time dependence of two quantum spin 1/2 particles under the influence of a Hamiltonian. Students determine, given a Hamiltonian, which states are stationary and under what circumstances measurement probabilities do change with time.