A particle of mass M
moves in an infinite square well of width L
(the “particle in a box”). Classically, the motion has period L,
which depends on the initial condition through the energy E
. Quantum mechanically, any wave function repeats exactly with period 4ML2/πℏ,
independent of the initial condition. Given this qualitative difference, how can the classical motion possibly be the limit of the quantal time development? The resolution of this paradox involves the difference between the exact revival (recurrence) of the wave function and the approximate periodicity of expectation values such as 〈x(t)〉.
(The latter may recur an odd integral number of times before the full wave function recurs.) The period of the expectation values does
depend on the initial condition and can
possess the expected classical limit. [An Appendix demonstrates that, under suitably quasiclassical conditions, the quantal time evolution of 〈x(t)〉
passes over to the classical result not only in period, but also in its exact functional form. Another Appendix proves four theorems concerning state-dependent exact revival times.] © 2001 American Association of Physics Teachers.