October 22, 2022
VT Northern Virginia Center
US/Eastern timezone
We thank all attendees for making the meeting such a great success. See you all in Harrisonburg on April 1, 2023!

Directly measuring the harmonic oscillator wavefunction.

Oct 22, 2022, 2:30 PM
Room 214 (VT Northern Virginia Center)

Room 214

VT Northern Virginia Center

7054 Haycock Rd, Falls Church, VA 22043


James Freericks (Georgetown University)


It is important to bring 21st century physics into the classroom. A recent experiment by the Regal lab prepared the first three energy eigenstates of a harmonic oscillator and then used time-of-flight spectroscopy to measure the momentum distribution (which can be easily converted into the momentum-space wavefunction). In this talk, I will explain how this experiment works and how you can bring it into your undergraduate classroom. It is suitable for Modern Physics courses or for junior-senior level Quantum classes. It also can be shown to high school classes as a "really cool" result from the second quantum revolution. The measurement is interesting because we measure position to infer momentum using a cycling atomic transition measurement, which does not really fit the von Neuman measurement paradigm. Discussing this material in your class helps with explaining the uncertainty principle, how measurement of single quanta takes place, and dispels the myth that a wavefunction cannot be measured.

Primary author

James Freericks (Georgetown University)

Presentation materials