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Multimodal Representation of Quantum Mechanics:
"The Hydrogen Atom"

Professor JoAnn Kuchera-Morin, Media Arts and Technology, professor Luca Peliti, Physics Department, and PhD student Lance Putnam, Media Arts and Technology

As the sciences increasingly rely on mathematical constructs to describe the invisible processes of nature, it is important to remain cognizant of the effectiveness of empirical observation towards gaining new insights. Digital systems provide not only a means of simulating models, but also a medium for communicating through image and sound.

This work interactively visualizes and sonifies the wavefunction of an electron of a single hydrogen atom. The atomic orbitals are modeled as solutions to the time-dependent Schrödinger equation with a spherically symmetric potential given by Coulomb's law of electrostatic force. Different orbitals of the electron can be combined in superposition to observe dynamic behaviors such as photon emission and absorption.

Hydrogen Atom
Video  arrow

The interactive component of the simulation allows one to fly through the atom with a probe that emits "stream particles" that follow along the largest changes in the probability current and gradient of the electron. The electron probability amplitude is sonified by scanning through groups of stream particles in the space. The pitch can be adjusted by the rate at which a particular set of stream particles is scanned across. This allows us to give the sonification procedure a certain type of musicality, by assigning specific pitches to different features in the wavefunction.

This investigation is just the beginning of an effort to multimodally represent mathematical models used in physical and theoretical sciences. By finding a common meeting ground, artists and scientists can share insights and pursue similar fundamental questions about symmetry, pattern formation, and emergence.

Hydrogen Atom

Images by Lance Putnam

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