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Are charges moving around in quantum mechanics? I want to know what the standard interpretation tells us about the distribution of charge in ordinary matter. For example, in monatomic hydrogen gas, we have the 1s state and the various 2p states. I know that if I take the superposition of those two states, I see an oscillating charge distribution (some people call it a probability distribution, but for sake of argument let's call it charge). But is this what happens in an ordinary sample of monatomic hydrogen gas? or is each atom always in a pure eigenstate, either 1s or 2p, with some probability of jumping between those states? In which case (not counting the "jumps") the charge is always stationary, so there is no moving charge.

The same question applies to solids. Take the tungsten filament in a light bulb. Does quantum mechanics tell us that the charge at any given moment is stationary, with some probability of the system jumping to another state with the emission of a photon? Or is there a continuous time evolution of charge distribution, with oscillating and moving charges present throughout the tungsten filament?

I'd like to know how standard QM answers these questions.


marked as duplicate by ACuriousMind quantum-mechanics Nov 18 '16 at 1:19

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  • $\begingroup$ Why do you say there is an oscillating charge distribution for a hydrogen atom in a superposition of 1s and 2p states? I don't see what is doing the oscillating. $\endgroup$ – John Rennie Nov 17 '16 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'm afraid QM provides no mechanism for studying the duration and movement of electrons as they jump between stationary states. The fact that magnetic moments are measurable suggests charge movement from a classical perspective, but QM descriptions a $\endgroup$ – Lewis Miller Nov 17 '16 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ Are silent regarding this question. $\endgroup$ – Lewis Miller Nov 17 '16 at 15:32
  • $\begingroup$ Previous questions by OP on the same subject: 1, 2, 3, 4 (png). Answerers would be well advised to read those previous discussions, as background, before answering. $\endgroup$ – Emilio Pisanty Nov 18 '16 at 0:40
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    $\begingroup$ Please clarify how exactly this question is different from your previous question about a charge density in a tungsten filament/hydrogen atom to reopen this question. $\endgroup$ – ACuriousMind Nov 18 '16 at 1:19