The traditional explanation of the Stern-Gerlach effect carries with it several very subtle assumptions and approximations. We point out the degree to which this fact has affected the way we practice and interpret modern physics. In order to gain a more complete understanding of the Stern-Gerlach effect beyond the standard approximations and assumptions it typically carries, we introduce the inhomogeneous Stern-Gerlach effect in which the strong uniform field component is removed. This change allows us to easily identify precession as a critical concept. It also provides us with a means by which to study precession and analyze it critically. By applying and comparing several mathematical techniques to this problem we gain insight into the applicability of precession arguments and the role of standard approximations and assumptions in both analytic derivation and interpretation. This approach also allows for a more general discussion regarding the use of representations in physics and teaching.
College and Department
Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Physics and Astronomy
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Stenson, Jared R., "Representations for Understanding the Stern-Gerlach Effect" (2005). Theses and Dissertations. 564.
quantum mechanics, Stern-Gerlach, representations