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How come when I use quantum mechanics to find the probability of an individual atom tunneling through a barrier and multiply the probability by itself n times (for n atoms) to obtain the probability of n atoms tunneling through a barrier, its not equal to the probability of a mass consisting of n atoms tunneling through the same barrier?
- Jim (age 20)
University of Pittsburgh
That's a nice question.
I assume you mean probability in some fixed time interval. When you
stop and think about it, even for a similar classical problem there
would be no reason for two probabilities like that to be equal. They
correspond to genuinely different physical processes. In one case, the
atoms leak across at a variety of different times. In the other case,
they move across together as a coherent block. Classically, the chance
the all the water molecules in a glass will hop out of the glass (i.e.
evaporate) can be very high even though the chance that they all hop
out together is very low indeed.
(republished on 07/21/06)
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