In classical physics, phase space trajectories give rise to flow-fields representing the dynamics of the system along its trajectories; they yield additional insight into a system's behavior.
Quantum theory phase space trajectories do not exist because Heisenberg's uncertainty principle does not allow for the formation of sharply defined trajectories. But quantum physicists have not given up entirely on phase space, and so the study of the next best thing, the movement of quantum physics' phase space-based probability distributions, has actually boomed in recent years.
UK-based physicist Ole Steuernagel from the University of Hertfordshire, alongside Dimitris Kakofengitis and Georg Ritter, have found that a new powerful tool they call ‘Wigner flow’ is the quantum analogue of phase space flow. Wigner flow provides information for quantum dynamics similar to that gleaned from phase space trajectories in classical physics. Wigner flow can be used for the visualisation of quantum dynamics. Additionally, and perhaps even more importantly, Wigner flow helps with the abstract analysis of quantum dynamics using topological methods.
Steuernagel said, “Because trajectories are missing in quantum phase space, physicists did not pay much attention to the associated flow-fields, although these do exist. Now, our research shows that quantum phase space flow is well worth studying.”
Sophisticated schemes for the reconstruction of the most prominent of these distributions, ‘Wigner's function’, from experimental data, have set quantum phase space analysis on a firm footing. Yet, since quantum trajectory studies cannot be carried out, some of the power of established classical methods is missing.
Researchers have been studying Wigner flow, which is based on the dynamics of Wigner's function, and have shown that it reveals new and surprising features of quantum phase space dynamics. It forms, for example, vortices that spin the ‘wrong’ way round and which appear in the ‘wrong’ part of phase space, when viewed from a classical physics standpoint. So, such dynamical patterns are manifestations of the quantum nature of the system.
On top of such new riches the team has established the existence of a conservation law that reveals a new type of topological order for quantum dynamics. As an application they have shown that Wigner flow sheds new light on quantum tunnelling, the fundamental process that governs the workings of electronic computer circuits, and also the decay of radio-nuclides.
Published in Physical Review Letters.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Debunking: A President Of The US Could Order A Nuclear Attack At A Moments Notice On A Whim
- Lunar Spelunking, & Moon Science Surprises - More Interesting For Human Exploration Than Boulder Plucked From Asteroid?
- A Dimuon Particle At 30 GeV In ALEPH ??
- Who Is Trying To Destroy The Internet?
- Was Euclid A Black Woman? Sorting Through The False History And Bad Philosophy Of Mathematics
- BPA-Free, With Regrets
- President Obama, Why Humans On Mars Right Now Are Bad For Science
- "This is a joke, right?..."
- "Yes, exactly. I go into it some more here:..."
- "Ok looks as if I need to do a teaser trailer so you know what is in the link, if you had clicked..."
- "Ffs of course its bloody real i dont get why people put things like well if it was real we would..."
- "Because your hundreds of thousands who read these things are scientifically illiterate and buy..."
- How Many Genes Does It Take to Make a Person?
- To Avoid Adult Dysfunction Start 'IN UTERO'
- ACSH Medical Director Named One Of America's Top Pediatricians, We're In The Economist, And More
- The Math of Hunting and Fishing: When to Work Together
- Placebo: Bubbles Of Nothing Are Still Not Something
- People Who Take Drugs May Be Likelier to Commit Suicide