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Applets for quantum mechanics

Rating: 5 stars
Used in Course: Not used in course
Submitted by: Ian Clark (Student), Apr 30, 2001
Comment: The most admirable aspect of this site is that it provides a certain amount of
visual elucidation and thus inspiration to the novice quantum mechanic. It is
easy to feel like quantum mechanics is a vast collection of unrelated
mathematical abstractions when one first embarks on the time-honored set of
introductory wave mechanics problems (the particle in a box, particle incident
on a step potential, harmonic oscillator etc?). This site illustrates every
introductory wave mechanics problem I had previously encountered and several I
had not. While the lack of associated text and derivation makes this site
unsuitable as a stand alone educational tool it did give many of these problems,
which were heretofore vague and abstract, a more visual and concrete
significance, and a sense of coherence which I found to be quite appealing. The
material presented on this site is primarily at or above my current level of
competence in the field of wave mechanics and partial differential equations,
but with that disclaimer, I could find no flaws in the material presented.
My favorite applet was the particle incident on a step potential barrier. If
memory serves most texts put forth a similar problem to describe the
transmission probability in which the particle is described by a completely
delocalised wave function (&Delta x = infinity). In the applet the particle is
described by a function with finite uncertainties in momentum and position. I
found that the treatment given in the applet provided a more intuitive sense of
transmission of a particle through a barrier, and when time permits I would like
to work through the problem for myself. I also enjoyed the applet depicting
the double potential well, but further rumination is needed before I can make
any reasonably intelligent commentary on it.
In summation I would say that this site is the first to have truly convinced me
that Java can play an important role in the teaching of physics, and I intend to
return to it to further my own understanding of the subject. My
congratulations are extended to its authors.

Technical Remarks:

The site is technically well constructed. The Java applets are masterfully
done: plots are clearly labeled and easy to read, all functions are
straightforward and easy to use, and the presentation is professional and
aesthetically appealing. The only drawbacks I could identify were a handful of
typographical errors and the daunting size of the Java applets. The average
applet size appeared to be in the neighborhood of 150k, which produced a 10 to
30 second delay on the university computers. I shudder to think how long they
would have taken me to load through the 28.8 modem on my home computer