Visualisation of quantum evolution in the Stern–Gerlach and Rabi experiments
The Stern–Gerlach experiment is a seminal experiment in quantum physics, involving the interaction between a particle with spin and an applied magnetic field gradient. A recent article [Wennerström et al., Phys. Chem. Chem. Phys., 2012, 14, 1677–1684] claimed that a full understanding of the Stern–Gerlach experiment can only be attained if transverse spin relaxation is taken into account, generated by fluctuating magnetic fields originating in the magnetic materials which generate the field gradient. This interpretation is contrary to the standard quantum description of the Stern–Gerlach experiment, which requires no dissipative effects. We present simulations of conventional quantum dynamics in the Stern–Gerlach experiment, using extended Wigner functions to describe the propagation of the quantum state in space and time. No relaxation effects are required to reproduce the qualitative experimental behaviour. We also present simulations of quantum dynamics in the Rabi experiment, in which an applied radiofrequency field induces spin transitions in the particle wave.