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What's the difference between "ortibal" and "orbit"? Which one should be used in physics? In quantum mechanics, is "atomic orbital" or "atomic orbit" used? And what about in classical mechanics? A particle's orbit or orbital?

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An orbit is a closed trajectory of a classical dynamical system. Properties of orbits or related to orbits are referred to as orbital properties.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbit_(dynamics)

An orbital is a single-electron wave function for an atom or molecule in the Hartree-Fock approximation. (There are also hybrid orbitals for electron pairs in a chemical bond.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_orbital

Thus a particle has an orbit (and related properties such as orbital speed) if it is treated classically (e.g., a planet). But if treated by quantum mechanics (e.g., an electron), it instead has orbitals.

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  • $\begingroup$ The first link doesn't work since the closing parenthesis is lost. How to fix this? $\endgroup$ – Arnold Neumaier Sep 3 '12 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ You can put angle brackets around the link - I fixed it for you. $\endgroup$ – David Z Sep 3 '12 at 17:50
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In quantum mechanics, strictly speaking, it's usually "orbital" (http://www.chemguide.co.uk/atoms/properties/orbitsorbitals.html ), in classical mechanics, it's "orbit". But classical mechanics is not very good for atoms.

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