Journal Article Detail Page
written by Antje Kohnle, Alexander Jackson, and Mark Paetkau
Learning introductory quantum physics is challenging, in part due to the different paradigms in classical mechanics and quantum physics. Classical mechanics is deterministic in that the equations of motion and the initial conditions fully determine a particle's trajectory. Quantum physics is an inherently probabilistic theory in that only probabilities for measurement outcomes can be determined. Prior to studying quantum physics, students will typically have little experience with probabilistic analyses of physical systems, and thus probability may be a conceptual hurdle for introductory quantum physics students. This article describes two interactive simulations developed as part of the QuVis Quantum Mechanics Visualization Project that aim to bridge the gap between classical mechanics and quantum physics using probabilistic analyses of classical systems. The simulations illustrate how a probability density can be obtained for two classical systems well known to students. The key learning goals of the simulations are to introduce students to probability densities and to help students distinguish between a probability and a probability density. The simulations build on previous work by Bao and Redish, who developed an activity that used pseudo-random video frames of a glider in harmonic motion to derive a classical probability density for this system, and a University of Washington quantum mechanics tutorial focusing on probability and probability density for a classical system. Interactive simulations allow students to easily carry out experiments and change variables that would be difficult to do with real equipment, and help students connect multiple representations by showing explicitly how they are linked. The simulations described here only require basic knowledge of algebra and classical mechanics. They run on touchscreen devices as well as desktop computers, and can be run in a standard web browser from the QuVis website or downloaded for offline use.
The Physics Teacher: Volume 57, Issue 3
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