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PERC 2011 Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: Representations for a Spins-First Approach to Quantum Mechanics
Abstract: 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 of 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.
Abstract Type: Gallery Session Poster
Poster Gallery Session: Representation Issues: Using Mathematics in Upper-Division Physics

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Corinne Manogue
Oregon State University
Co-Author(s)
and Co-Presenter(s)
Elizabeth Gire, University of Memphis
David McIntyre, Oregon State University
Janet Tate, Oregon State University