Wednesday, August 06, 2008

More Weird Quantum Behaviour

Paradoxical Reflection in Quantum Mechanics
This article concerns a phenomenon of elementary quantum mechanics that is quite counter-intuitive, very non-classical, and apparently not widely known: a quantum particle can get reflected at a potential step downwards. In contrast, classical particles get reflected only at upward steps. As a consequence, a quantum particle can be trapped for a long time (though not forever) in a region surrounded by downward potential steps, that is, on a plateau. Said succinctly, a quantum particle tends not to fall off a table. The conditions for this effect are that the wave length is much greater than the width of the potential step and the kinetic energy of the particle is much smaller than the depth of the potential step. We point out how the topic is accessible with elementary methods, but also with mathematical rigor and numerically.

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