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ERIC Number: EJ1083354
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 8
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: EISSN-1554-9178
Student Ability to Distinguish between Superposition States and Mixed States in Quantum Mechanics
Passante, Gina; Emigh, Paul J.; Shaffer, Peter S.
Physical Review Special Topics - Physics Education Research, v11 n2 p020135-1-020135-8 Jul-Dec 2015
Superposition gives rise to the probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics and is therefore one of the concepts at the heart of quantum mechanics. Although we have found that many students can successfully use the idea of superposition to calculate the probabilities of different measurement outcomes, they are often unable to identify the experimental implications of a superposition state. In particular, they fail to recognize how a superposition state and a mixed state (sometimes called a "lack of knowledge" state) can produce different experimental results. We present data that suggest that superposition in quantum mechanics is a difficult concept for students enrolled in sophomore-, junior-, and graduate-level quantum mechanics courses. We illustrate how an interactive lecture tutorial can improve student understanding of quantum mechanical superposition. A longitudinal study suggests that the impact persists after an additional quarter of quantum mechanics instruction that does not specifically address these ideas.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Washington
Grant or Contract Numbers: DUE1022449