**Arcadi Santamaria (Arcadi.Santamaria@uv.es)**

This is a demonstration of the numerical computation of path integrals in quantum
mechanics. It is based on the paper *A Statistical Approach to Quantum
Mechanics*, by M. Creutz and B. Freedman, Annals of Physics **132**, 427
(1981).

The path integral formula for the propagator is

where, on the left hand side and are the eigenfunctions and eigen values of the quantum Hamiltonian and on the right hand side is the action for paths starting in and ending in

and means sum over all paths.

Taking , and with
this can be used to compute the lowest energy levels and their wave functions

with the Euclidean (for imaginary time) action

The path integral can be computed by discretizing the (Euclidean) time, then

with , and

We took in order to satisfy the boundary conditions . This integral can be computed numerically by using the Metropolis algorithm.

Although, in principle there is no integration on it is
convenient to include it also in the integration since, due to the boundary
conditions, all are completely equivalent. One does it by introducing
an integration over of

then we have

which can be understood as the expectation value of the function with the set distributed according to the probability distribution . Thus, using Metropolis, we generate paths (sets of ) distributed according to . Then, we collect in a binned histogram the values of (but also the values of , since all the have the same distribution). This, with the appropriate normalization should give us the correct wave function squared .

Once we have the wave function we can compute the expectation value of the Hamiltonian
which should give us the energy of the lowest bound state, . For
this we use the virial theorem

For the potential we use

where is the step function and the last term ensures that the minimum of the potential is always zero. Thus, if it is a harmonic oscillator with ( must be positive). If and the potential has two degenerate minima at .

The applet gives you in the upper panel the normalized wave function as a histogram (to be compared with a Gaussian which is the wave function of the harmonic oscillator ( and ). The middle panel gives the energy as a function of the number of iterations. The lower panel gives a sample of the paths (as a function of time in units of ) that contribute more to the path integral formula. All expressions are for and .

The button ``Potential'' opens a window with the potential and allows you to change it (clicking on the ``hand'' in the lower right corner). By changing it the simulation is restarted.

Yo can also ``pause'' and ``continue'' the simulation and print the panels.

All the simulations are performed for a lattice of sites and with . The plots are updated only every iterations and the initial conditions for the iterations are also restarted randomly every iterations.

For ( and ) you can see the nice Gaussian of the harmonic oscillator with .

For ( and , try for instance and , ) there are two degenerate minima. Classically the particle stays in one of the two minima. In quantum mechanics, however, we can see that in the typical contributing paths the particle stays most of the time in one of the minima but from time to time it jumps to the other minimum (these are the so-called instantonic solutions) where it stays also some time. This allows the particle to stay half of the time in each of the two minima generating a wave function completely symmetric.

You will need the Java plugin (version 1.4 or above) to run the Path Integral applet (Click on the "Launch Applet" button to open it)

This document was generated using the
**LaTeX**2`HTML` translator Version 2002 (1.62)

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996,
Nikos Drakos,
Computer Based Learning Unit, University of Leeds.

Copyright © 1997, 1998, 1999,
Ross Moore,
Mathematics Department, Macquarie University, Sydney.

The command line arguments were:

**latex2html** `-split 0 -nonavigation metro.tex`

The translation was initiated by Arcadi Santamaria on 2004-12-09

Arcadi Santamaria 2004-12-09