home - login - register

Representations for a spins-first approach to quantum mechanics Documents

Main Document

Representations for a spins-first approach to quantum mechanics 

written by Corinne A. Manogue, Elizabeth Gire, David McIntyre, and Janet Tate

In the Paradigms in Physics Curriculum at Oregon State University, we take a spins-first approach to quantum mechanics using a java simulation of successive Stern-Gerlach experiments to explore the postulates. The experimental schematic is a diagrammatic representation that we use throughout our discussion of quantum measurements. With a spins-first approach, it is natural to start with Dirac bra-ket language for states, observables, and projection operators. We also use explicit matrix representations of operators and ask students to translate between the Dirac and matrix languages. The projection of the state onto a basis is represented with a histogram. When we subsequently introduce wave functions, the wave function attains a natural interpretation as the continuous limit of these discrete histograms or a projection of a Dirac ket onto position or momentum eigenstates. We are able to test the students' facility with moving between these representations in later modules.

Published February 6, 2012
Last Modified April 23, 2012

This file is included in the full-text index.