# Linearity of quantum mechanics [closed]

We live in a world where almost all physical phenomena is non-linear, while the description of microscopic phenomena is based on quantum mechanics wich is linear by definition. What do you think the points of connection between the two descriptions?

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I'm not sure this question makes any real sense. It what way are you calling quantum mechanics linear? Sure, wavefunctions superpose linearly, but what's the problem? Voting to close, I'm afraid. – Noldorin Nov 22 '10 at 14:46
What's wrong with this question? (Aside from being really difficult to answer properly.) – Peter Shor Nov 22 '10 at 21:21
Excellent question, I should ask something similar but perhaps better defined. – Carl Brannen Feb 5 '11 at 0:26

## closed as not a real question by Noldorin, Marek, mbq♦, Raskolnikov, Cedric H.Nov 22 '10 at 19:04

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, see the FAQ.

Linear in the quantum mechanics has nothing to do with its complexity. A two-state spin can be described by a simple 2-by-2 matrix; however, 30 interacting spin, in general, must be described by a 1 billion by 1 billion matrix. It grows exponentially as the number of spins increases, for $10^{23}$ spin, you may need a matrix of size $2^{10^{23}}$. It is not easy to understand and not simple in most sense. If you learn some statistical mechanics, you will know that this number is large enough to have new emergent phenomenon.

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 You start with a huge mistake. Newton's equation of motion is in general non-linear. Only for special cases such as the harmonic oscillator is the equation linear. Take for instance Newton's equation for the Kepler problem (two gravitating masses) and see if you can combine two solutions linearly to obtain a new one. It is however correct that linear equations will never lead to chaos, but that doesn't mean that linear equations can't be difficult. As you correctly point out, quantum systems have exponentially more variables as compared to their classical counterparts. – Raskolnikov Nov 22 '10 at 16:22 Thanks for the correction. I mixed the deterministic and non-linear when I just started typing. It is clear that Newton's equation is non-linear cos we can set any force, say $F(x)=x^3$, to make it non-linear. Let's remove that part of answer. – hwlau Nov 22 '10 at 17:20 I agree it is not a good question though. – hwlau Nov 22 '10 at 17:27

There is an all too common misconception that because the Schrodinger equation is linear, non-linear phenomena (like chaos) are only classical. The wavefunction does obey a linear equation, the Schrodinger equation, but it is not directly related to observable physics. Observables quantities, like expectation values of operators, obey non-linear equations. In fact, many times the same equations as their classical counterparts, with small corrections.

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Assuming you mean "linear" in the mathematical sense of "the sum of two solutions to the relevant equation is also a solution," there's no particular reason why macroscopic objects are inherently non-linear. In fact, there is a large body of work in the quantum foundations community on ways to have macroscopic objects behave in a linear manner but look non-linear. That's the whole point of things like the Many-Worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and the research into decoherence by people like W. Zurek. There may be a scale above which it is impractical to see superposition states, but that doesn't mean that they can't exist.

If that's not what you mean, then I don't know how to answer you.

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There is other "domain of linearity"; $\ddot{x}=-x$ is a linear equation with solutions nonlinear in time.

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That's true but this is never meant by linearity of equations/theory. Linearity always has to do with superposition. – Marek Nov 22 '10 at 15:56
@Marek Yes, but I can't see why it is a problem. One can superpose nonlinear solutions to get a nonlinear solution. – mbq Nov 22 '10 at 16:03
@mbq: first of all, I wouldn't call a solution of linear equation, which is nonlinear in time, nonlinear. The solutions are almost never linear in time, so it is just plain confusing. Second, OP's question is not a real question (I voted to close) so I don't think there is any reasonable answer. Third, even if there were a good answer, yours is more like a comment about quite irrelevant piece of terminology. – Marek Nov 22 '10 at 16:12
@Marek If so, ok; indeed I also voted to close. – mbq Nov 22 '10 at 16:14
@mbq: Consider the nonlinear equation $\dot x + x^2 = 0$, both $1/t$ and $1/(t-1)$ are solutions, but the "superposition" $1/t + 1/(t-1)$ is not. – KennyTM Nov 22 '10 at 16:14
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