Support for Java Applets, including Physlets, has been discontinued by browsers and Oracle. Thus, traditional Java-based Physlets are no longer supported on this website. Please note Open Source Physics (OSP) Java programs continue to run on computers with Java if users download the jar file.

The OSP team is busy updating and developing simulations using HTML5 + JavaScript.
These simulations run on almost all platforms including tablets and cellphones. Explore the Third Edition of Physlets Physics or search OSP for JavaScript to find these simulations.

# Chapter 12: Harmonic Oscillators and Other Spatially-varying Wells

In this chapter we will consider eigenstates of potential energy functions that are spatially varying, V(x) ≠ constant. We begin with the most recognizable of these problems, that of the simple harmonic oscillator, V(x) = mω2x2/2, is perhaps the most ubiquitous potential energy function in physics. Several systems in nature exactly exhibit the harmonic oscillator's potential energy, but many more systems approximately exhibit the form of the harmonic oscillator's potential energy.1

## Problems

• Problem 12.1: Compare classical and quantum harmonic oscillator probability distributions.
• Problem 12.2: A particle is in a 1-d dimensionless harmonic oscillator potential.
• Problem 12.3: Two-state superpositions in the harmonic oscillator.
• Problem 12.4: A particle is confined to a box with an added unknown potential energy function.
• Problem 12.5: Describe the effect of the added potential energy function.
• Problem 12.6: Determining the properties of half wells.
• Problem 12.7: Determining the properties of half wells.

## Alternate Visualizations

1A generic potential energy function, V(x), can be expanded in a Taylor series to yield

V(x) = V(x0) + (xx0) dV(x)/dx|x = x0 + ((xx0)2/2!) d2V(x)/dx2|x = x0+…

If the original potential energy is symmetric about x = 0, we can expand about x0 = 0 to yield

V(x) = V(x0) + (x) dV(x)/dx|x = 0 + (x2/2!) d2V(x)/dx2|x = 0 + …

The leading non-constant term is in the form of a harmonic oscillator, and thus this potential can be approximately treated as a harmonic oscillator.

Quantum Theory TOC

Overview TOC

The OSP Network: