I have been studying the harmonic oscillator in quantum mechanics.

I fully understand the origin of the zero-point energy and how it can be mathematically shown using the uncertainty principle that the harmonic oscillator cannot have $0$ energy.

However, on a classical scale, in our daily lives, we can see/imagine zero energy, for example, a ball at rest on the ground.

My question is, how does a quantum system's inability to occupy $0$ energy and our classical 'intuition' of zero-energy relate?

I hope my question is clear.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ The zero-point energy is proportional to $h$... $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2017 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ Related: physics.stackexchange.com/q/22506/2451 $\endgroup$
    – Qmechanic
    Dec 20, 2017 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Qmechanic thanks but I don’t feel like it properly answers my question... $\endgroup$ Dec 20, 2017 at 19:31
  • $\begingroup$ I don't understand what this zero point energy is supposed to mean since you cannot extract it and absolute energy is meaningless. $\endgroup$
    – DanielSank
    Dec 21, 2017 at 4:59

1 Answer 1


I'm assuming by zero-point energy you are asking a simple harmonic oscillator problem in the quantum mechanics context. Then that's equivalent to ask how could you go to classical limit of a quantum system. Well, quite simple: by taking $\hbar\rightarrow 0$. Therefore you obtain the zero-point fluctuation vanishes.


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