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Small Group Activity

120 min.

Representations of the Infinite Square Well

Representations of the Infinite Square Well

Consider three particles of mass \(m\) which are each in an infinite square well potential at \(0<x<L\).

The energy eigenstates of the infinite square well are:

\[ E_n(x) = \sqrt{\frac{2}{L}}\sin{\left(\frac{n \pi x}{L}\right)}\]

with energies \(E_n = \frac{n^2 \pi^2 \hbar^2}{2mL^2}\)

The particles are initially in the states, respectively: \begin{eqnarray*} |\psi_a(0)\rangle &=& A \Big[\left|{E_1}\right\rangle + 2i \left|{E_4}\right\rangle - 3\left|{E_{10}}\right\rangle \Big]\\[6pt] \psi_b(x,0) &=& B \left[i \sqrt{\frac{2}{L}}\sin{\left(\frac{\pi x}{L}\right)} + i \sqrt{\frac{8}{L}}\sin{\left(\frac{4\pi x}{L}\right)} - \sqrt{\frac{18}{L}}\sin{\left(\frac{10\pi x}{L}\right)} \right]\\[6pt] \psi_c(x,0) &=& C x(x-L) \end{eqnarray*}

For each particle:

  1. Determine the value of the normalization constant.
  2. At \(t=0\), what is the probability of measuring the energy of the particle to be \(\frac{8\pi^2\hbar^2}{mL^2}\)?
  3. Find the state of the particle at a later time \(t\).
  4. What is the probability of measuring the energy of the particle to be the same value \(\frac{8\pi^2\hbar^2}{mL^2}\) at a later time \(t\)?
  5. What is the probability of finding the particle to be in the left half of the well?

Student Conversations

  1. Help students recognize that particle \(a\) and particle \(b\) are in the same state.
  2. For normalization, emphasize that you must calculate the square of the norm of the state BEFORE you integrate.
  3. The energy value given is simplified - students need to recognize that this energy corresponds to \(n=4\).
  4. Time evolving particle \(c\) is brutal for the students. Reassure students that they have to leave it as a sum. Setting up the integral is the point here. For time expediancy, encourage students to leave the integral to be evaluated later.
  5. For Hamiltonian's that don't don't depend on time, the probabilities of measuring energies are time independent.
  6. Emphasize to students that you can't calculate the probability of finding a particle in a region in Dirac notation.
  • Found in: Quantum Fundamentals course(s) Found in: Warm-Up sequence(s)

A particle in an infinite square well potential has an initial state vector \[\left|{\Psi(0)}\right\rangle = A\big(\left|{\phi_1}\right\rangle -\left|{\phi_2}\right\rangle +i\left|{\phi_3}\right\rangle \big)\]

where \(|\phi_n\rangle\) are the energy eigenstates. You have previously found \(\left|{\Psi(t)}\right\rangle \) for this state.

  1. Use a computer to graph the wave function \(\Psi(x,t)\) and probability density \(\rho(x,t)\). Choose a few interesting values of \(t\) to include in your submission.

  2. Use a computer to calculate the probability of measuring the particle to be near the middle of the well (within 1% on either side) as a function of time. Include both your symbolic result and a graph in your submission.

  3. Choose another location in the well, different from the location above. Use a computer to calculate the probability of measuring the particle to be near your chosen location (within 1% on either side) as a function of time. Include both your symbolic result and a graph in your submission.

  4. Are there any locations in the well where the probability is independent of time? Explain how you determined your answer.

  5. The time dependence for a wave function like this is complicated. Write a lengthy description in words about the major features of this wave function and its probability density, how they change in time, and why they change the way they do. Comment on any interesting features you noticed that you have not already discussed in the questions above and describe any additional things you learned from the process of solving this problem.

Students write python programs to compute the potential due to a square of surface charge, and then to visualize the result. This activity can be used to introduce students to the process of integrating numerically.
  1. Current \(I\) flows down a wire with square cross-section. The length of the square side is \(L\). If the current is uniformly distributed over the entire area, find the current density .
  2. If the current is uniformly distributed over the outer surface only, find the current density .
  • Found in: Static Fields, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving course(s) Found in: Integration Sequence, Flux Sequence sequence(s)


5 min.

Phase in Quantum States

In quantum mechanics, it turns out that the overall phase for a state does not have any physical significance. Therefore, you will need to become quick at rearranging the phase of various states. For each of the vectors listed below, rewrite the vector as an overall complex phase times a new vector whose first component is real and positive. \[\left|D\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 7e^{i\frac{\pi}{6}}\\ 3e^{i\frac{\pi}{2}}\\ -1\\ \end{pmatrix}\\ \left|E\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} i\\ 4\\ \end{pmatrix}\\ \left|F\right\rangle\doteq \begin{pmatrix} 2+2i\\ 3-4i\\ \end{pmatrix} \]

Computer Simulation

30 min.

Visualization of Power Series Approximations
Students use prepared Sage code or a prepared Mathematica notebook to plot \(\sin\theta\) simultaneously with several terms of a power series expansion to judge how well the approximation fits. Students can alter the worksheet to change the number of terms in the expansion and even to change the function that is being considered. Students should have already calculated the coefficients for the power series expansion in a previous activity, Calculating Coefficients for a Power Series.
  • Taylor series power series approximation
    Found in: Theoretical Mechanics, Static Fields, Central Forces, AIMS Maxwell, Problem-Solving, None course(s) Found in: Power Series Sequence (Mechanics), Power Series Sequence (E&M) sequence(s)

Small Group Activity

10 min.

Guess the Fourier Series from a Graph
The students are shown the graph of a function that is a superposition of three harmonic functions and asked to guess the harmonic terms of the Fourier series. Students then use prewritten Sage code to verify the coefficients from their guess. The program allows the students to enter functions of their own choice as well as the one that is preset.
  • Found in: Oscillations and Waves, None course(s)


30 min.

Introducing entropy
This lecture introduces the idea of entropy, including the relationship between entropy and multiplicity as well as the relationship between changes in entropy and heat.

Small Group Activity

60 min.

Visualizing Plane Waves

Each small group of 3-4 students is given a white board or piece of paper with a square grid of points on it.

Each group is given a different two-dimensional vector \(\vec{k}\) and is asked to calculate the value of \(\vec{k} \cdot \vec {r}\) for each point on the grid and to draw the set of points with constant value of \(\vec{k} \cdot \vec{r}\) using rainbow colors to indicate increasing value.

Small Group Activity

30 min.

Outer Product of a Vector on Itself
Students compute the outer product of a vector on itself to product a projection operator. Students discover that projection operators are idempotent (square to themselves) and that a complete set of outer products of an orthonormal basis is the identity (a completeness relation).